Saturday, April 30, 2011

Colorado Seminar - Wow, We had Fun!

Barbara and I had a fantastic time at the seminar in Broomfield!  We had a big group, about 40, and we ate and ate all weekend.  I'm going to have to go on celery and water to make up for it (just kidding, I don't have that kind of willpower).

We had a went to Chilis tonight and then we took care of the rest of our pint of ice cream, as if we hadn't already eaten all day long.  We had amazing potluck at the seminar.

The Colorado knitters were just wonderful - have such a well-run seminar in a great facility, pitched in and helped each other with setup and cleanup, paid attention to the demos, had great questions and ideas, seemed to be having fun, have a sense of humor, and bless them, they bought lots of my books and DVDs, which made the seminar profitable for us, plus we don't have to drag that stuff home!  Gee, it's heavy.  I enjoyed the conversation at lunch, especially the terrific love story that Geri shared with me.

I only dropped all the knitting on the floor once.  Sigh.  I'd like to get to where I don't do anything quite that doofy, but I guess I'm a work in progress!  Still, even the experienced knitters seemed to pick up something a little different.  I felt like my lace was very confusing with this one requiring end needle suppression and that one not, and this one increasing and that one scalloping, this one out of Stitch World and that one original...sorry for all the similar but different stuff, but we had quite a lace festival today.  I do give out pretty good handouts, a spiral bound book, though, which will help with confusion.

Barbara ran my operation like the champ she is, and I've decided I really couldn't do this without her.

Now the agenda is to get home, unpack, and start the next knitting adventure.

Thanks for Supporting this MK Blog - Click Away, Knitters

It is said that if you give something away for free, people won't appreciate it.

This blog puts the lie to that idea!  I have made a lot of friends by "giving away" machine knitting video, lessons, patterns, ideas, and dubious advice, and I get a lot of appreciative emails.  There are a few people who have learned to machine knit from me.  I also have plenty of folks who support my blogger addiction by buying books and videos and clicking on my Adsense (Google) ads and my Amazon shopping box.  Thank you.

Even my own son, who isn't interested in knitting (except to snag the occasional finished item), says this is a worthwhile project based on the feedback we get from readers.  Of course, a finished project photo is the most awesome feedback of all!

I blog because I'm a compulsive write and I want to keep this remarkable craft alive, and you know, I'm having a good time with it.  If you want to help me out (besides buying my books and videos), I don't have a "tip jar," but I do run a few ads and an Amazon search box.  If you click on the ads, I get paid.  (Try Knit Picks - they have great quality sock and lace yarns at good prices.  Webs is another amazing site.)  If you buy something at Amazon, I get a small commission.  Did you know Amazon has yarn, Ultimate Sweater Machines and accessories?

I am not allowed to click on my own ads, of course, but every so often, when overwhelmed with curiosity, I put in their URLs without clicking here and am pleasantly surprised to find some cool, new-to-me knitting sites.

Inspiration at: My Machine Knitting Patterns: 3ply Top

Susan was inspired by a vintage pattern to create this lovely top:

My Machine Knitting Patterns: 3ply Top

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hi from Colorado

Here we are in Lewisville, Colorado, and this is the evening view from the window.  Barbara and I went for a walk to get dinner - found an Outback within walking distance, and pigged out - and the wind was blowing hard like a storm is coming in.  Check out this dramatic cloud.  Clouds or not, it's beautiful here with lovely mountain ranges and trees with spring blossoms.  We're getting a break from the suffocatingly hot weather we've had lately in Central Texas. 
Karen, who gave us a ride from the airport, said there has been very little snow so far this year but that it's in the forecast for the weekend.  It's very dry here just now - I guess we didn't get away from the drought we've been experiencing in Austin.

We had a nice trip so far with a quick flight on a full plane, and we're at a comfy hotel with pleasant staff and everything we need.  The hardest thing was dragging all the STUFF - books, DVDs, pet tools that I can't manage without, and knitted samples. We filled all four suitcases we were allowed and had two heavy carry-ons, as well.  Of course we don't know what I forgot yet!  I'm totally psyched out for tomorrow's seminar - can't wait.

How to Get the Most Out of a Machine Knitting Seminar

Here are some ideas for getting the most out of a machine knitting seminar:

Pay attention. Whoa, did I say that? Am I talking to my kids, or what? Well, the actual fact is that it’s SUCH BIG FUN to go to a knitting seminar that I myself and endlessly tempted to focus on socializing and not on the demonstrations. However, a month or two later when I wish I remembered how something was done, I’ll be sorry if I didn’t pay attention.

Paying attention means actually watching. If you think you can knit or crochet in the back and catch everything, you’re fooling yourself. Even if you are a very advanced machine knitter, there is probably something new to learn or some way to contribute and help the others. We are drowning in evidence that multi-tasking doesn’t work. And please, don’t interfere with others who want to pay attention. I was very aggravated at a seminar once when the demonstrator got angry with people talking, but now I know better.  It is a terrible, stressful experience for the demonstrator when they are trying to teach over conversations. It’s impossible to do a good job as a demonstrator under those conditions, and it’s also very annoying for the other participants.

Ask questions. If you are paying attention, you really should ask your questions, even if you are a beginner. In almost every case, other people have the same question, and you are doing the demonstrator a favor. The demonstrator really wants to be clear and understandable!

Help with sound and video. If you seminar doesn’t have a sound system or a video system, you can do this fairly easily and it’ll really help everyone, including you. We discovered that a used karaoke machine is a very cheap way to get quite decent sound so a soft-voiced person like me can be heard by 50 people. We also learned that a camcorder on a tripod, focused on the needle bed and cabled to some borrowed flat-screen television is a fantastic way to see the demonstrator’s technique. If you’re not handy with these things, ask around! This is one area that can greatly improve a seminar.

Take notes. Bring a spiral-bound notebook and label the outside with the date of the seminar and write lots of notes. My friend, an amazingly organized person, sometimes brings paper and pens to share! If you’re a seminar organizer, of course you could pitch in and create handouts, but even without handouts, notes can be very helpful later.  If they give you handouts, write more notes in the margins.  Post-its are good for that, too.

Take photos. Most demonstrators don’t mind if you take photos. Heck, I’m pleased if you want photos of samples or needle setups of whatever – just don’t hold up the group.

Use your imagination. Imagine yourself doing the technique on your machine. What would be different? What are you not so sure about?  How could you use this technique?

Get up and come closer when needed. Most demonstrators will give permission to come up and watch something fiddly.

If the demonstrator asks for volunteers, go for it. On some techniques, I like to get the audience to practice. People learn watching and helping each other.  Be brave - this is your one and only exciting life!

Make the new folks and beginners feel welcome. It’s getting newbies into your machine knitting group that will keep it engaging and exciting in years to come!  Even if you're a little shy, you can help make folks welcome.

Practice. The evening after the seminar, I might practice in the hotel room with my portable machine. Or, if you’re going home, and even though you’re tired in the evening, you can find a few minutes to practice. Some how or other, practice your favorite techniques from the seminar before a lot of time goes by. Consider talking to yourself as you practice as if you were explaining it to someone else.

Teach someone else. This is a terrific way to imprint the information thoroughly into your memory.  Besides, your knit club always needs demonstrations.

Okay, those are all the ideas I have! Does anyone else have suggestions for how to get the most out of a machine knitting seminar?

Inspiration: Knitting Machine: PUNCH IN LACE BLOUSE

Oh, go see this one! Irma does it again - Very lovely punch lace (aka thread lace):

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Seminar in Colorado This Weekend

I'm finishing getting ready to go teach at a machine knitting seminar in Broomfield, Colorado (near Denver) on Saturday.  If anyone thinks they might be able to make it, if you email me at diana_knits "at" sbcglobal "dot" net, I don't have particulars but can get you contact information for the club's organizers.

I am almost ready to go.  I have the handouts, nice spiral-bound books with all the techniques and a bunch of patterns printed, plus a seminar special ready to go (it's a free-with-purchase DVD), I have samples to bring, merchandise to bring, and the big one, at least for me, is that I have gone over all the demonstrations and made sure they're familiar (I forget if I don't knit things again every so often), making samples as I refreshed my memory.

Each club asks for different things, and this weekend I am teaching more lace than usual - mirror image lace and my mirror image lace shawl.  I am also teaching some ribber techniques and some garter bar work, in particular fair isle round yokes.

While it is work, I also have a great time.  Knitters are just a generally enjoyable crowd and they always bring bright ideas to seminar (sometimes they wear them!).  Also, I enjoy those special moments when something I show actually is going to be very helpful to someone.  There's a look in the eye that I'm not privileged to see when I'm at my computer

Barbara's going with me to be my right-hand person, and as a lefty, wow, do I need one!  What I experience is that once we begin, I am so mentally consumed keeping track of what I'm demonstrating, making sure my explanations are sufficient and clear, and paying attention to everyone that I can't be conscious of much else.  Being "on" and teaching is a little foreign for accountants, but I used to teach accounting and I used to teach knitting classes, so I can switch into that person.  She's a different persona than my usual detailed, quiet number-nerdy self.  Barbara will stop me for breaks, take care of business for me, and answer lots of questions from knitters. 

I'm very excited to be doing this, and when this one's done, I need to dig in and help with the Knit Natters first seminar which we are planning for fall and which will include some Passap classes. 

Come Visit Church (Virtually) With Me

Yesterday, after we attended Easter church services with our 21-year-old son Steven who attends college in another city, he remarked that he hasn't been able find teaching like we have at our church.  Our senior pastor, Tim Hawks, is a gifted speaker, and I always learn something every time I listen to him (and I've been around a while, not that I admit to being old or anything like that ;) )

Hill Country Bible Church is a large, extremely fast-growing church in Austin, Texas, located in a neighborhood filled with technology workers.  It's been an adventure for John and I, because we were determined to find a small church when we moved here, but this one, which seemed so very large at the time (it was teensy compared to now) was where we belonged.  We've gradually realized that belonging to a humongous church is a fantastic experience, because they seem to have so many ministries where you could serve or have your needs met, and because they have a philosophy of getting everyone involved and growing.  They do a tremendous amount of charitable work to help the community, they've planted a great many churches, they do a lot of overseas work, and I am grateful every week to be part of something so special.  John and I have mainly been involved with financial literacy ministries, but last year and the year before we worked with students at the church plant at the University of Texas. 

The church films and records its services.  They have all sort of resources that you can tap into at their website,  Here are two sermons you can experience over the internet, if you're interested:

1.  Easter is always a special day because church attendance swells to three packed services.  The church auditorium holds 3,000 people, and they have us move together to eliminate empty seats between people.  On top of that, they have two overflow venues with electronic viewing and two off-site broadcast venues.  For Easter and Christmas, because so many people visit, they always have a big choir, special visual aids and a famous country singer who is a member often does special music. 

On Easter, our pastor always explains the basics of Christianity.  Lots of people have never actually listened to a clear presentation about what Christians believe and wonder what the big deal is about Jesus, anyway, so if you're curious about what Christianity is about, this is the one to listen to!

2. For a second, more typical service, here's a link to the Palm Sunday service.  Palm Sunday is one of my favorite days on the church calendar! My sweetie and I walked down the aisle on a Palm Sunday, years ago, as he made a public decision to become a Christ-follower, which makes this day even more meaningful for me. On this Palm Sunday, the week before last, our pastor delivered a fascinating sermon about the seven different statements that Jesus made from the cross.

Here's the Palm Sunday link.

Good Information on Yarn Counts (Thickness)

Woodland Greys Yarn Count

Monday, April 25, 2011

Update on Barbara's Zapped E6000

John gave Barbara's E6000, damaged in by lightning strike power surge recently, a good going-over on Saturday.  Here's what he learned:

The console's transformer is ruined.  The wires leading to it have browned, melted insulation, and the transformer is dead.

John tried her parts with my good machine, which is the same vintage, and determined that the electronics in the locks, motor, and reverse row counter are also wrecked.  He opened up some items to look for damage, but others he merely tested. 

About the only way to fix this machine is to replace the console, locks, motor and row counter.  Sigh.  We have a lot of thunderstorms in Central Texas, and I really need to change my own habits and leave my machines unplugged unless I'm using them!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Struck by Lightning! Go Unplug Your Electronic Machine

Barbara phoned about ten days ago to say that their house was hit by lightning in the early morning hours.  The damage is devastating.

The house wiring is damaged - insulation is off the wires in places and very, very dangerous.  The air conditioner and furnace were ruined.  They lost a bunch of electrical appliances and other items, including her beloved Bernina sewing machine and her treasured Passap E6000 electronic knitting machine.

My John thought that maybe if Barbara put a different console on the Passap that she would discover the console took the brunt of the hit, but nope, she tried that right away.  The console is ruined, the motor is ruined, and the wiring and electronics for the beds are also ruined, or at least based on symptoms, that's how it looks.

Barbara used surge protectors, and the E6 was on an older heavy-duty one.  This was a terrible strike, though.  She didn't have her serger plugged in, so it was okay.  The Brother was plugged in, also on a surge protector, but it was okay.  It just seemed to depend on where things were.

The firefighters who responded were amazed the whole house didn't burn down because the strike also caused a gas leak!  God is good.  The whole family was sleeping, Barbara, Carl, David, and their adorable granddaughter.  Talk about saving the treasures!

Now they're fighting the homeowners' insurance company, and based on their experience with this company so far (a big, famous one), either the claims adjuster is a lower life form or the company is utterly a sham.  Barbara and Carl will see it through and eventually get decent reimbursements and put the household back together, but it has been a nightmarish experience so far, with Barbara using up vacation time to chase things the claims adjuster is demanding.

I've been told by people who've been through it about the difficulties you can run into with an insurance company when a knitting machine is ruined.  You should have photos of the machine and documentation about what you paid for it, and you still may be in for a fight.  It's just not your typical household appliance.

We're having lunch with Barbara and Carl, we're taking my spare Passap E6 over there, and John's having a look at the zapped E6 to see the extent of the damage.  John will take photos and write a letter for the insurance company.  Barbara did an expensive upgrade from 8k to 32k some years ago, and she's looking for documentation for what that is worth (cost her $600, and I was envious.  My John hasn't done those kind of upgrades, so far.  Hint.  Hint, Darling Sweetie.).

Please observe a moment of silence for the poor nuked Passap.  Now go unplug all your treasures!  I hate to unplug mine, hate all that crawling around on the floor, but I'm doing it, too.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

eBay Video Problems: HELP! Any wizards out there?

I just put the Goldilocks Challenge book and 2-DVD video set on eBay.  (It's cheaper here, if you want to buy a copy).  I do believe this new book/DVD set is some of my best work.

I wanted to embed some video, video clips to show that the DVDs are actual machine knitting lessons.  So, I picked out some USM and bulky machine clips and edited a very short video.  Now I find out that eBay won't allow the posting of video from YouTube any more, so I enrolled in their "free" app Vzaar, which has limited bandwidth unless you pay a whopping fee.  I had to re- re-edited my video to make it small enough for Vzaar to upload it and handle it, and tried again.  Then it said it added it to the listing and what it really did was create a big empty spot in the listing.  Took it down again, re-edited the listing, and gave up for now.

eBay charges so much for a listing - over 10% of each sale on this one - plus all the listing fees - but I put up with them because it's a way to get the information out there.  I view my mission as popularizing and teaching MK, and eBay gets eyeballs.  Once a person buys a product from me on eBay, I send a business card along with their item, plus the videos and books always talk about my blog in an effort to get the person to visit here and get in on all the MK information I put on the blog.

What a disappointment that I can't get video into my ads, at least not unless one of you is knowledgeable and willing to give me a lesson.  Does anyone out there know how to do this?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Knit Natters Saturday

We had a wonderful club meeting with two new people.  I did a Brother demo and Barbara did a DM-80 demo, which is a rare thing.  She had just recently acquired and rehabilitated a DM-80, so she showed everyone that famous triangle card.

We've got growing pains!  We had so much to do this meeting that we didn't get much in the way of photos.  The Knit Natters Yahoo group is very helpful, and Joan Corte has created a roster with contact information to help us stay organized.

Here's a photo of my demo samples.  I did a bunch of hand-manipulated trims which you would either put along an edge, use as an insertion, or apply on top of the knitting.  They lie fairly flat and are interesting looking.  Some of the club members wanted to be able to match the samples to the items on the instruction sheet, so I said I'd post a photo here.  If you start on the right, that's the ruched bars, then moving leftward, there are the ruched hearts, then the long tucked trim, then the dainty trim, then the small twisted trim, then the jerked trim, then the small jerked trim, then the eyelet bias trim, and finally, the chevron trim.  The blue and green samples were done on my bulky machine and the tiny white samples, on Barbara's standard gauge at club.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Knit Natters

We are meeting at 1:00 at Barbara's house.  Doris is coming by at 12:15 to drive over there.  She'll see the house in a mess, because I've been rushing to put together the Brother demo for today.  My only show-and-tell is the Goldilocks book and DVDs.

I decided to teach some trims made on the main bed at club.  I had to knit them on the bulky because my standard is busy with a mirror-image lace shawl.  I'll do 'em on the standard at Barbara's house, though, and they'll look more delicate and generally better. 

I have done so much editing, packing orders, bookkeeping and good old working (I have a day job!) lately that my knitting coordination is bad this week, but coming back as I worked the trims and the shawl. 

New goal:  knit more, less admin stuff related to knitting.  Maybe, maybe not!  I have gotten addicted to teaching folks to knit.

For club, I used some simple hand-manipulated trims that have been around a while and then I fiddled and came up with about 8 or 9 fresh ones.  (I came up with 8 or 9 new ones that were suitable for the trash, too, which is always how it is.)  I had to type 'em up, too and run copies.  That's my demo for today.

And I'm picking up the Studio machine I'm buying for the purpose of Studio-ifying my enchanted lace edgings.  Exciting, huh? 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Awesome Question from Tom About Yarn Weights

"Can you explain for us un seasoned MK'ers what the coned yarn weights are in relation to the Yarn Council chart? What is a Yarn Council "1" equal to on coned yarns? Example: 2/10, 5/12 and etc."

The top number is how many strands or plies are twisted to make that particular yarn and the bottom number is a measurement of thickness - how much length you get in a certain weight of yarn.  Therefore, the bigger the bottom number, the skinnier the strand.

This isn't entirely precise because some fibers weigh more than others for the same thickness and yardage.  It gives you a starting place, though!

I have done some research on this issue and am not any kind of expert. I get befuddled once they start talking about S and Z twists and tiny cotton fibers.  Maybe a person from the textile industry can weigh in and help us.  It does seem to me that weavers can use yarns that behave badly for knitters. 

I do have a lot of experience, though, that is, I've struggled for years to make very nice knitted items, so I have a rule-of-thumb method for figuring out the weight (thickness) of coned yarn when all I have is that marking.  What I do is divide the bottom number by the top number, which I realize is backwards for fractions, to get a number to help me classify the yarn.  For instance, with a 1/12 or a 2/24, I get "12" which to me means it's lace weight.  If I get anywhere from a 9 to a 12, I'll call it a lace weight, but I know a 12 is a lot thinner than a 9.

If I divide and get about a six, with a 1/6, 2/12, 3/18, that's about fingering weight and is just wonderful for the standard machine.  I figure 6 is right in the middle of the fingering group and would say that anything from about 5-8 goes in that family.

It follows from this that 2 strands of a "12" gives you a "6."  For instance, two strands of 2/24 gives you 4/24.

I hardly ever buy much thicker yarn on cones, and if I do, it seems like the seller has described the thickness.  

I knit a lot of swatches.  It's not just to get gauge - it's to feel the swatches and wash the swatches and make decisions about how best to use the yarn.  I think about whether the fabric is stable, not warpy or shapeless.  I want to make sure the fabric feels good, and isn't too dense or loose.  And of course, I use swatches to help decide about textures and color combinations.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ways to Improve Your Knitting - Learn About Yarn Weights

When we talk about “yarn weights,” we mean the thickness of the yarn.  Since the thickness of the yarn is critical to your projects’ success, yarn weight groups can be very useful.  Generally, if you can’t get one yarn in a group another yarn in the same group will probably make an okay substitute; however, each yarn weight group has a range of thicknesses.  A thinner yarn in the same group won’t substitute well for a thicker one, unless you do the math to adjust the pattern.

And let’s think about actual “weight” for just a moment.  Patterns usually specify so many ounces or grams of yarn.   Because some fibers have more heft, you get very different yardages for the same number of ounces of yarn, depending on whether the yarn is acrylic, rayon, cotton, silk, or wool, and also depending on the spin of the fiber.  When in doubt, buy more than you think you need and keep the receipt.  A reputable store will allow you to return an extra ball or two, if it’s new and unopened.

When you’re picking out yarn, it’s very helpful to get used to the various markings on the packages.  These skein-of-yarn logos with a number inside indicate the yarn’s weight group (thickness – we’re back to thickness!).  In addition to the group number logo, there’s usually a gauge diagram which gives additional information about the thickness of the yarn.  When you’re trying to get a good substitute, if you can get the gauge diagram to match, you’re all set.

Of course, you must rewind any skeined yarn for knitting with your machine.  Yarn gets clumpy and tangled in skeins.  Lots of hand knitters untangle the yarn as they go, but that just doesn’t work with knitting machines, which yank out and use a yard or two of yarn in a single pass of the carriage!  Along with a knitting machine, you need to invest in a yarn winder.

For reference on yarn weights, here’s a great little chart from the Yarn Council of America that you can print off and keep with your knitting notes:

These are the consumer yarn weights with the symbols on the label: 

Lace weight is really skinny stuff – you can expect to get 8 to 10 stitches per inch hand knitting the stuff.  This would be using a 000-1 size knitting needle!  Lots of times, hand knitting lace patterns use this yarn with a loose gauge to give a loopy, gauzy look.

I often successfully knitted lace weight yarn on the knitting machine, but it tends to be a little thin for the standard gauge machine.  When the yarn is really thin, you tend to get the following problems:
  1. The yarn slips through the upper tension unit too easily.  You want your upper tension unit to actually hold the yarn just enough so that the rabbit ears (excuse me, I should say take-up springs) go up and down as you knit. 
  2. The stitches might not knit off the needles but tend to stay on and clump. 
  3. The finished fabric might be too gauzy and see-through.

Some strategies to make very skinny yarn practical in your standard gauge machine:
  1. Use enough weight, evenly placed across the machine – but not too much.  You’re going to have to experiment to get this right!
  2. Use the fine knit bar that came with your ribber.  This long, skinny piece of plastic fits between the needles and the gate pegs on the main bed and presses against the needle as it goes in and out, helping to move the stitch down off the needle.
  3. Consider doing full needle rib stitches instead of stockinette-based stitches.  (In fact, if you’re learning to “full needle rib,” this is the yarn to start with!
  4. Do a lot of swatching and be flexible about trying different stitch patterns to see what works best
  5. Double-up the yarn (knit two strands at once)
  6. Play with the upper tension setting so you get a little drag on the yarn feed

·         Consider using the yarn for something lacy, deliberately going for a gauzy look

I would call this “fingering” or “sock” weight yarn.   Years ago this was “baby” weight yarn.  Now the stores are filled with much thicker yarns labeled “baby” weight, so don’t go by that designation anymore!  “Baby” can mean anything from fingering yarn to bulky yarn, since the yarn companies are marketing to beginners with quick, thick projects.  That’s fine, but can be confusing when you’re trying to figure out yarn thickness.

Lace weight yarn hand knits on a size 1-3 needle and give 7-8 stitches per inch, roughly.   This corresponds (roughly) to 2/12 yarn in the commercial cone yarns.

Every machine has a “sweet spot,” a yarn thickness that is ideal for that machine.  It simply hums along better with yarn in the right thickness.  It may work very poorly, or not knit at all, with other sizes of yarn.  For standard gauge machines, 4.5 mm in needle pitch, “fingering” is usually the yarn to use.

Not only is fingering weight yarn more pleasant to use than thick yarn, you’ll often get a more figure-flattering result with thinner yarns.   Most nice sweaters you see in the shops are not made with thick, chunky yarn.  Sweaters tend to add a little visual size to the figure, and chunkier yarns add more.  These thinner yarns can even be blocked so they’re soft and drapy for a high-fashion look.

If I were only allowed to give one piece of advice to a beginning machine knitter, I’d say, get some skinny yarn for learning!  If only beginning machine knitters will start right out with the right thickness of yarn for their machines, they have a much better experience with a lot less frustration and problems.  Even if you don’t want to knit socks, sock yarn may be the easiest thing for you to obtain in local stores for your knitting machine.

Cone yarn is fantastic for machine knitting.  Do not limit yourself to yarns you can get in the local stores – venture onto the internet and try cones of yarn intended for machine knitting.  First of all, they’re pre-waxed so slide easily through your machine.  Secondly, the yardage on a great, big cone is amazing.  You can knit and knit without having to join a new end.  And, coned yarn is wound in the ideal way to feed perfectly into your machine – no rewinding of yarn!

Usually, fingering weight yarn is a little too thick for full needle rib (FNR).  If you set your ribber up for FNR and look at the needle arrangement, you’ll observe that where you had 50 needles knitting on the main bed, now you have 100 needles in the same amount of space.  It follows that you need a much thinner yarn for FNR.

This is called “sport” yarn.  It’ll give 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 stitches per inch on a size 3-5 hand knitting needle. 

“Sport” is a very nice size for a lot of things.  I encourage hand knitters and crocheters to try sport yarn for a more professional finish than the thicker yarns – and especially encourage crocheters to use it.  It’s a little thick for standard gauge, 4.5 mm, Japanese flatbed knitting machines, though.
Your standard machine will probably knit sport weight yarn on every needle, but it may struggle with it.  

Some common symptoms of too-thick yarn include:
  1. Carriage is hard to push.  Never, never force the carriage!  If it’s hard, grinding, or extra-noisy to push, completely change your plans.  Why put that strain on your precious machine?
  2. The knitted fabric may be stiff, too tight, and feel “packed.”
  3. Yarn might lie on top of the stitches instead of knitting through.
  4. The lace carriage may refuse to transfer the stitches.
  5. Yarn may be too fat to fit easily inside the needle hook (and if it’s this fat, it will be nothing but trouble)

Some strategies for trying to knit thicker yarn include:
  1. Try knitting on every-other-needle. 
  2. Consider a 1x1 ribbing or a ribbing with half pitch and every third needle on each bed, then racked to center the ribber needles.
  3. Loosen the upper tension unit.
  4. Try playing with the carriage tension settings.  Sometimes a tighter setting will be easier to knit, and sometimes a looser setting.
  5. Use enough weight.

·       Again, don’t use yarn in your machine if it strains the machine.

“Sport” weight yarn is typically terrific in a mid-gauge machine, which has a 6 mm or 6.5 mm pitch.  It has a little bigger needle, which helps hold the fatter yarn.

Also try “sport” weight yarn on your bulky machine.  I really like the way it knits on my Brother bulky.  It’s nice for ribbed stitches on the bulky.  A lot of people think a “bulky” machine knits “bulky” yarn, but no, it knits thicker-than-standard-machine yarn…how thick, well, depends on the machine.

Sizes 3 and 4 are the DK/Worsted sizes.  3 is lighter, more like a DK (double knitting or light worsted) and 4 is thicker, more like Red Heart worsted (not my favorite yarn, but so very familiar to Americans, so you can visualize that thickness).
These yarns are typically too heavy for a standard knitting machine.  One of the first things beginners do is try to knit these, because they’re common, familiar yarns.  Yes, you can usually knit them on a standard machine on every other needle, but no guarantees, kids.  If you see those too-heavy-yarn symptoms, well, the yarn is too heavy.  If the yarn over-fills the needle, it’s too thick for certain.  If you’ve been in the habit of knitting worsted (group 4) yarns on every other needle on your standard machine, try much thinner yarn and experience a completely different, easier and better knitting session.

These yarns will sometimes knit on a mid-gauge machine but usually are too thick for that as well.
These yarns will usually knit on a bulky machine (8 or 9 mm pitch).  You might like group 3 better than group 4.   I just wrote a book of bulky machine projects, and I used category 4 yarn for every one of them – and I used 8 and 9 mm machines.

It’s time to talk about bumpy, hairy yarn.  Bumpy yarn might be thick-and-thin, crimped, or slubby, or it could be a twist of more than one yarn, some strands crimped, slubby, or uneven.  For the purpose of getting these yarns to knit successfully on the knitting machine, look at the very thickest part.  These tend to knit up thicker than they look like they will.

Hairy yarn is especially problematic on the knitting machine.  It knits up so much bigger than you expect it to – and the machine just magically smooths away all the fluff on the stockinette side.  You get fluff on the reverse stockinette side, but that’s not helpful unless you were planning to use that for the right side of the knitting. 

I use it, especially on the bulky, anyway.  I like that look.  First of all, I look for a thinner hairy yarn, and secondly, brush it very lightly after knitting it to fluff it up.  I use a baby hairbrush or a soft natural bristle brush and I don’t brush it much.  Just go easy on it, since you can always brush it more later, but you can’t fix it if you brush it too much.   

Ah, this is the thick stuff, giving 3 to 3-1/2 stitches per inch on a size 9 to 11 needle. 
Generally, this is too thick for your knitting machine.  Think of it as hand knitting yarn only.
It’s probably too thick for even a bulky machine.  You can try it on every other needle, but it’s a long shot at best.  I have nursed a very few brands through the bulky machine with the following strategies:
  1. I tape or shim open the upper tension unit dial. 
  2. I rewind it and wax it like crazy.  Yarn spray’s helpful, too.
  3. I might use every other needle or a very wide ribber needle setup.
  4. I use more weight than normal and knit very slowly.  After every single row, I check the stitches.

However, I have to be highly motivated to bother with this.  If I think it feels forced or hard on my machine, I stop, because I don’t want to ruin my machine. 

I don’t even like to bend a needle – to me, bent needles are an indication that I did something I should not do to my machine.  The machine disagrees – it just told me that bent needles are an indication of abuse.  J Okay, maybe your machine won’t gripe and will suffer in silence, but you know that if you’re bending machine needles you’re not treating your machine well.  I know from sad experience that if the yarn doesn’t fit fully inside the hook that it won’t knit through the machine decently. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hey, I'm Still Around - All Kinds of Updates

I've had a crazy few days, but I am knitting.  I am doing a lace shawl, my mirror image lace triangle shawl, making up a fresh sample if I can for the Denver seminar.  Their wish list was heavy on the lace items I do, and I adore lace.

On the lace front, I am hoping to purchase a Studio for the primary purpose of Studio-ifying my lace, particularly the Enchanted Edgings.  I really don't see why it can't be done, but I do expect it to require a lot of switching and threading and unthreading.  I'll let y'all know!

Work has been NUTS this week.  Somebody remind me how much I love my job, please?  Well, I take care of the network and the accounting, and fortunately, we finished the audit field work period before our network decided to get all difficult on me.  We had an assortment of problems connecting to our home office the last couple weeks, I think because of big-time maintenance at our home office, and I've spent hours trying to see if there's anything we're could do locally to make it better.

In an unrelated fiasco yesterday, we actually went down and stayed down three hours.  Yesterday morning after our old server, which runs Small Business Server 2003, had to be rebooted, it lost most of its licenses.  We have too many people to limp along with the licenses it had left - 5- we normally have 45 licenses.  It comes with 5, and you pay lots of money for more.  This has happened before, and the routine is to type the Microsoft license keys back in, and life is good.  Not this time!  In fact, I spent almost 2-1/2 hours on the phone with Microsoft being transferred around by people who barely spoke English and couldn't understand what my problem was well enough to send me to a remotely likely department.  They also kept telling me that our licenses wouldn't validate.  It's been years since I phoned Microsoft, and I hope it's years before I phone them again.

I finally got a support case started - and they charge for that - then went to my office to eat a sandwich and Google the problem and see if anyone out on the Net has a fix.  Found a fix, did the fix, Microsoft called back, and I told them we were already up and running.  I was very happy with myself!  It turns out that the software saves a backup file of the original licenses that can be copied over the messed-up file.

I always feel great once a problem is fixed, but that doesn't make up for the hours of feeling terrible because my co-workers are frustrated and can't get their work done.

Now we're working on getting a newer server and newer software as well.  Our server is several years old and it's time.  I guess this old dog will have to learn some new tricks, or at least new software.

On the knitting front, lots of things are happening!  I've already sold a bunch of Goldilocks books.  I put it up on the blog at a special price to encourage people to buy it early.  I am proud of this booklet - I think I pushed the envelope as to quality projects that can be made on simple bulky machines, and I think I gave enough information to empower beginners.

I have the Colorado handouts written, just have a little more editing to do and they go to print.  Hubby did the last proofread and he finds a lot wrong - just try getting a missing period past him!  He really thinks about any numbers in the patterns, too, asking questions like, "Do you really mean needle #94L?  Does that mean left?  Doesn't the pattern just say "right" in the paragraph above?"

I've nearly finished a hand knitting book (very pretty round dishcloths), and it probably calls for some video to cover the provisional cast-on I prefer and the invisible seam weaving, which is just good old Kitchener, but in garter stitch.  I love knitting those things.  Probably something wrong with my mind...but if you read this blog, you already know that I like knitting things in circles.  I find hand knitting super soothing, but I don't like to hand knit on double-point needles.  These are two-needle dishcloths with an invisible seam.  I don't quite know when I'll finish that project, though; probably after Colorado, which is at the end of the month.

I've written some more essays on how to improve your knitting.  This batch is about the thicknesses of yarn - "yarn weights" - and I need to read them and see if they're any good.  If they're okay, I'll stick 'em on the blog soon.

Knit Natters is this Saturday, so if you're in the Central Texas area or visiting the area, you might like to come.  I can be emailed at diana_knits "at" sbcglobal "dot" net.  I don't know what's on the program yet, but I think Barbara has programs in reserve.  We have a Yahoo group now.  You can search for it and ask to join if you're interested in what our club is doing.

Knit Natters is planning a fall seminar.  I don't have a lot of details yet, but I hope to have more for you soon.

Inspiration at Marzipanknits: Spring Knitting

Marzipanknits: Spring Knitting

Adorable sweater.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Praise for Guy Knitters

Hey, fella, do you think you are the only man out there who machine knits?


A number of gentlemen knitters email me, and I especially wanted to share this lovely picture from Irv.  Here he is with two adorable granddaughters, who are wearing their new sweaters made using the Beginner Raglan pattern at the end of the beginner course.  

Aren't they darling?  This photo really made me smile!

I'll never quite understand it, but isn't it fantastic to see a loved one looking so great in something you made yourself?

I wrote this pattern for any bulky machine.  If you have a ribber, you can do ribbed bands instead of the cuffed ones in the pattern.  If you have a standard gauge machine, I have a standard gauge pattern, as well.

The pattern is free, too.  With detailed free videos to help you along the way if it's actually your first sweater.