Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Twelve Free Videos from 2013

In past years, I picked out the best blog posts of the year and ran a list on New Year's Eve.  This year, I challenged myself to do a technique video every month, and the videos are by far the most popular posts.  Here are the twelve videos of 2013:
  1. January:  Twisted Fringe Video.   I love this fringe, which hangs nicely and doesn't have yarn ends to fray.
  2. February:  Video on set in sleeve, knitted upside-down using short-rowing.
  3. March:  make a cute Machine Knitted Bunny!  Nope, not difficult; it's just a square of knitted fabric and a little sewing.
  4. April:  Learn knit-side grafted seams with this video.  You can Kitchener from the purl side or the knit side, and sometimes you need to do it from the knit side.
  5. May:  Figure-8 cast-on and graft video.  Here's a stretchy cast-on.
  6. June:  New video, Tam Take Two, showing how you can use sew-as-you-go to make these cute pinwheel hats much more easily.
  7. July:  Make vertical, ribbed buttonholes following this easy video lesson.  This is my favorite buttonhole because it looks so tidy and neat.
  8. August:  The August video was floatless, vertical fair isle.  You can have several colors and textures in work at once!
  9. September:  The September technique video, one of the most popular of the year, shows how to join afghan panels using a contrasting-colored cable. 
  10. October:  Lattice Lace on the Silver Reed machine video teaches a pretty, lacy stitch that "ripples" and knits up very quickly!
  11. November:  The Helix Cable looks quite fancy, but is fast and easy to knit. 
  12. December:  Fingerless Mitt Video, using English Rib to make a thick, quick and practical gift item. 
As of today, I have 160 free MK videos over at my YouTube channel, some great, some primitive (I left my original, clunky beginner lessons up, even though we redid them all in high-definition, using what we learned, for the DVD products we sell).  This is a body of MK work unlike anything anyone else has done, unless they were running a paid subscription site.  I currently have over 2 million views and over 5,000 subscribers, but I get the most excited about the people I have taught to machine knit. 

My husband John says I really must keep on doing the monthly video, and I'm planning to try in 2014. 

Want to catch all the new free videos in 2014?   Click here and "subscribe," and you'll be able to grab 'em as they come out.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Current Project - Don't bother reading if computers aren't interesting to you

Originally, we wanted to travel on the days off we have right now, but that didn't work out, so I made a "wish list" of things I'd like to finish.  One of the things on my list was to redo my laptop - that is, install a solid state disk drive, a fresh copy of windows, and organize my files.

I have given a lot of computers at work a new lease on life (and greatly enhanced speed) by installling SSDs. A person with some computer background can do this fairly easily.

I did most of this one yesterday. Of course, since I was taking the hard drive out of the laptop and replacing it, I could have put it in a hard drive enclosure and gotten my files that way.  However, I thought it was a good idea to copy all my files to a standalone drive that we use for my knitting stuff, just for a good backup, so I did that.

I made one smart decision - I copied all the device drivers in the Windows driver directories onto my expansion drive, which saved me some time later.

Next step was to replace the hard drive with the SSD.  I had already purchased it, and it was sitting here for several weeks, waiting for me to not need the laptop at my office and to find time to do the entire job.  Since SSDs are the right size for laptops, the bracket that came with it wasn't necessary.  You need the bracket if you're putting an SSD into a desktop computer.

SSDs are kind of expensive.  I watch for sales - I like to get a 256GB one for under $200.  I prefer at least that much space, and I like Samsung, Crucial, and Corsair brands.

Next job - reinstall Windows 7, and make sure all the devices have good drivers.  Several of mine didn't (this is a 2-year-old Sony), so did the "Update Driver" process, having the system look in that copy I made of the driver directories.  After that, I reinstalled all the other necessary software, including Adobe, Office, a virus checker, QuickBooks.  Finally, I copied my files over and organized them a little better.  QB took a long time to install, and Windows did a bunch of updates.

Important note:  If you have Design-A-Knit, you should check with your DAK reseller and get instructions on how to uninstall and reinstall it when you redo your computer.  If you don't do it correctly, I understand you can lose a "life," which is what they call your rights to use the copy, part of their copy-protection system for DAK. 

So - how'd I do?  It isn't booting faster yet, because it keeps installing Microsoft updates, but that should stop soon.  I am thrilled, though, with the improvement in QuickBooks, which was taking a few seconds to record each transaction before I installed the SSD - now, the wait is gone.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joy on Christmas Eve

For me, Christmas is a beautiful holiday filled with sweet memories and spiritual meaning, I hope that whatever you believe and whatever you celebrate, that this year you experience a wonderful, joyful holiday season.

This Christmas, I have so much to be grateful for!  God has done wonderful things for me, scooping me up as a teenager who was depressed and felt unloved (incorrectly) and changing my life forever in just about every way that matters by introducing me to Jesus Christ. 

45 years later, I'm still in good health, productive, and so happy with my wonderful husband John (we've been marred 39 years as of December 21).  Our two sons have both recently acquired new jobs, much better situations. I confess I let myself worry too much about them struggling in this poor economy this last year. 

I work for a nonprofit Boy Scout council that provides "mountaintop" experiences for youngsters while teaching them values and skills that equip them to be happy, successful adults.  I'm always seeing fantastic examples of this; just three weeks ago, I shook hands with a 14-year-old Eagle Scout who saved a young father's life.

Plenty of people don't agree with the values of Christianity or of the Boy Scouting tradition, but I live in a free country where I can worship in my own way and work for this nonprofit that has done so much for my own children.

I need to thank you readers, especially, that I get to share my machine knitting hobby with all of you and make such amazing friends!   This year, I put up 12 new demonstration videos, almost like my own virtual machine knitting club with a monthly exploration, taught five seminars, wrote two new knitting books, and filmed the videos to go with them.  Nearly every day, I answered emails from knitters who sent photos, asked intriguing questions, and provided dozens of great knitting ideas.

The last couple of years I posted a link to a chapter of Luke each day of December up through December 25th, but this year I failed to get that organized.  Today, I thought I'd share a couple of things that I enjoyed, just sitting back and considering the meaning of Christmas.  First of all, here's a message (from my pastor last Sunday) called "The Magic of Christmas," in which he draws lessons from the experience of Mary and Joseph that we can apply to our own lives:


And matching up to that, here's a YouTube that I found with nativity movie clips and Josh Groban singing "O Holy Night." 

The Sullivans wish you all a very merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ssssssh....Another gift idea, this one sewn, not knitted

Many of my knitting friends have met my husband John, who does so many things to keep my machine knitting work going and to assist my customers.  So don't tell him what I made him for Christmas, okay?  I'll tell my readers just in case you can use this idea for someone in your life, but John doesn't normally read this blog, it's two days to Christmas, and I think I can get away with it.

In the evenings, we often sit on the couch in our den (near a large, drafty window) and watch TV for about an hour, wrapped in our fleece throws.  Afghans are wonderful, but these are bang-around, let the dog climb up, warm throws that get laundered fairly often.  After they're worn, they go in the trunk for an emergency or get folded for a washable doggie bed.

I've bought quite a few of them over the years, but many of them were thin and cheesy, and some were just too small.  The typical fleece throw is 50" x 60", which is skimpy for even an average-height female.  I'm 65" tall, so 60" is not enough to tuck around my feet and also pull up over my shoulders.  They're 'way too short for most guys; even my sons, who don't use a throw much, have grumbled that most throws are too small.

I went to JoAnn's and bought their best printed fleece.  It's expensive, but with a special and a Wednesday senior discount, I was very pleased with my bargain.  My friend likes to watch for fleece on sale at Hancock's too.  It comes in a 60" width.  I purchased 3 yards each of two prints, so I had two 9-foot by 5-foot pieces.  I made humongous fleece throws with a big pocket across the bottom to keep feet warm.

Here's the general procedure: 

I started by trimming away the selvedge edges and straightening the ends. 

With the fleece prints I used, it was difficult to tell the right from the wrong side.  They look nice on both sides!  I finally decided that one side had a darker, clearer print.  Keeping track of the right side, I folded over the short end about 3/4" for a hem (wrong sides together) and zigzagged that down, putting in a wide zigzag that fully covered the raw edge.  Then I pinned that same edge, right sides together, to form a 24" pocket and sewed down each side, using a straight stitch, about 3/4" from the edge.  I triple-stitched these seams, since they'll get some stress.  Then I flipped the pocket right-side out and poked the corners out so they'd be square.  Next, I pinned around that whole pocket edge and sewed about 3/4" from the edge in the wide zigzag, then continued on sewing a hem with the zigzag all around the blanket to finish it neatly.  The sewing part of the job took me about an hour for each throw.

Finished size is a little less than 5 feet wide by 7 feet long.  If that turns out to be too long, I can always trim off some and re-hem the plain end.

I made a mental list of things that made the thick, stretchy fleece easier to sew.  With such a big piece, you'll want to try not to stretch it or have its weight pulling the work one way or another.  I needed to keep moving the fabric around on my sewing surface.  Secondly, pinning is quite worthwhile to keep the edges matched up.  Pinning also helped when I topstitched over around that pocket edge at the bottom.  By pinning, I could keep the seam at the edge, not pulled toward the top or bottom, and I even pinned the folded edge to keep the fold from moving.  Another thing I noticed was that the fleece was easier to sew if I used at least a medium stitch length.  It's fuzzy, and the sewing machine doesn't pull it through quite as easily as a smooth fabric. 

If you don't sew:  my friend makes fleece throws by simply fringing the edges using a rotary cutter, mat, and quilter's slotted cutting guide.  I don't know why you couldn't tie the "fringe" to make a pocket; she does that to make matching pillows.

Wow! Two Million!

I feel like a million bucks because I have just recently reached 2 million YouTube views.  All my videos are about machine knitting, free demos and lessons, so I guess we're still a lively hobby, even if we are a smaller group than in the old days.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Seeking Fabulous Gift Ideas

Even with Christmas day so fast approaching, there may yet be a few folks who are just difficult gift targets.  Sometimes a handmade gift is the best for that person.

We knit for people so they can have cool things that can't be bought in the stores.  We also knit for people so they'll experience the joy that someone loved them enough to take time for them. 

Yesterday, I attended the annual Knit Natters holiday party, and I saw LOTS of great gift ideas from my girlfriends:
  • Jars of homemade hot cocoa mix and homemade spiced tea.
  • A beautiful dropped-stitch scarf
  • Handknit ruffle scarves
  • A glass Christmas-tree shaped jar filled with little balls of yarn
  • A beautiful multi-colored afghan
  • Fingerless gloves
  • An embroidered sweatshirt (with a snowman and the words, "All my friends are flakes"
Also, through this blog and my MK correspondence, I get great gift ideas from friends on the internet!   Here's one:  Heidi sent me a photo of my bulky lined slipper pattern made up and then stitched to a Boye slipper bottom.   These slipper bottoms are sturdy and insulated, so you can make slippers that are warm (Heidi lives in Minnesota) plus hold up to daily wear.

I try to do a lot of gift ideas on the blog, and try to link to them in December.  Here are a few knitted gift instructions from previous blog posts:

I wrote out instructions for Knitting a Necklace.  Also, here are some project videos that I thought would make great, fast gifts in a pinch:  child's sweater, bulky lined slippers, very quick afghan, warm child's hat, socks, hand knit dishcloth, felted slipper, and mitten.

Got last-minute gift ideas to share?  Please put them in the comments, or email me information, and I'll post them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Earflap Hats

I drew a name in a Secret Santa gift exchange, and the instructions said to keep the cost down, and that humorous gifts were appreciated.

After last year's gift exchange, I have a fairly good idea what kinds of gifts people gave.  My recipient is outdoors a great deal (and lately, it's been quite cold here  - we do get a bit of winter).  With that in mind, and seeing these hats everywhere I go, I decided to do an earflap hat.

Since I don't know my recipient well enough to know if he'd find a monkey hat, mouse hat, or some other goofy hat funny, I decided to just make a warm fair isle hat.  The darker one is for him - the colors are more muted and masculine than they look in the picture. 

These don't look like they'd fit well, but they do.  I should get a wig stand or something just for photographing hats!

I spent quite a bit of time making the pattern, made a dark-colored one, then tweaked the pattern a little more and made another from some interesting space-dyed yarn I had, using a space-dyed beige/gray as the secondary color and a space-dyed blue/green as the main color.

These are just Stitch World fair isle patterns, #75 and #80 from SW#3.  Oddly enough, I don't think I've ever made anything with these two charts before!  The yarn is a fingering weight, about a 2/12, and they're wool.  The pattern is good but not finished - I have a couple of things I want to change still.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

And, Now, a Message to Our Loved Ones... Gift Ideas for Machine Knitters!

Let us have a short pause in the machine knitting obsession for the sake of our dear ones.  These beloved individuals are searching, at this very moment, for fabulous gift ideas for the adorable machine knitter in their life.

This post is for you, dearly loved machine-knitting friends and family.  If your machine knitting maven has printed and clipped it out for you, left it under your pillow, or taped it to the fridge with a note that your favorite dessert is on the middle shelf, take the hint, okay?

These are the gift items that machine knitters long for:

1.  Luxury yarn - wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk...while it's in the skein, your knitter will pet it gently for comfort after a tough day.  When it's knitted up, we'll hug it close and remember what a lovely person gave us this luscious yarn.  Perhaps your knitting sweetie has an allergy or a color obsession, and your kind attention to those issues will come to mind as your adored knitter whips up a plummy bamboo scarf that is SO "her."  Do you find choosing a good yarn daunting - you could get a gift certificate to a favorite fiber store.

2.  Knitting area enhancements...cubbies and cone trees for yarn; shelves for books, holders for magazines, pegboard for parts, totes and trays for hand tools.  How about an umbrella stand to hold cast-on combs and sponge bars?  How about a comfortable, adjustable rolling chair?  How about a nifty magnifying lamp?

3.  Light your knitter's eyes up with an awesome accessory for his or her favorite machine.  Yes, this is just a bit more difficult, but all you have to do is ask a few questions.  Maybe the most-wanted item is a garter carriage for a Brother or an electronic lace carriage for a Studio.  Maybe it's a motor, or a color changer, or garter bar, or transfer carriage, or an electric yarn winder.   Yes, you need one that fits the correct machine, but a good dealer can help you with that.

4.  A subscription to a machine knitting magazine is always welcome!  Whether it's online or in print, your knitter will find something great in every issue.  Consider Knitter's Edge (online), Machine Knitting Monthly (print), or Country Knitting of Maine (print).    UPDATE & CORRECTION:  Go to Knit It Now, not Knitter's Edge, as BJ has reminded me they are no longer current.  I was thinking Knit It Now, and typed Knitter's Edge!

5.  Consider providing your knitter with a trip to a great knitting seminar!  Here are some of the best...The Knit Knack Shop's Spring Fling, Monroe Area Machine Knitters, Pacifically Passap, and Fingerlakes Machine Knitting Seminar.   By the way, my 2014 seminar commitments so far are Knit Knack's Spring Fling, the Minnesota seminar, and Fingerlakes.

6.   A personal touch is cost nothing but is always greatly appreciated!  How about a few hours of babysitting, elder sitting, some casserole for the fridge, or some other assistance so your knitter can find a little time to knit.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December's Video: Fingerless Mitts

Every month in 2013, I put up a machine knitting video, and for December, I wanted to make a video of a nice gift that you can knit - something that doesn't take too much time or money, but people on your list will appreciate/

So here's my video, teaching a fingerless mitt.  I am an accountant, and we office workers often sit still in our offices, typing on the computer, and getting cold fingers.  These are ideal for that!

This takes less than one skein (under 50 grams) of fingering weight yarn.  Since this doesn't take much yarn, why not use the very best, softest yarn you can find?  Wouldn't these be great in cashmere blend, or perhaps baby alpaca?  I was digging through my yarn stash myself - somewhere, I've got some 50% wool/50% cashmere yarn, just a little bit left on the cone after another project, that I think would make a luxurious pair.

So far, I've made three pair, using 75% superwash wool/25% nylon self-striping sock yarn, machine washable stuff.  I had a few orphan skeins I bought on sale that are buttery soft and quite colorful. It's always fun to knit up self-striping yarns and see how the colors look.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

GIVING TUESDAY - A Charity Near and Dear to My Heart

We had "Black Friday," "Cyber Monday," and today is "Giving Tuesday!"

I've never made an appeal like this, and this is mostly for local folks, but those of you who know me know that I work as a controller for a Boy Scout council.  My job is to make sure money is handled wisely, that overhead is kept to a minimum, and that donor gifts go to help children. 

I am especially proud that our council provides uniforms, supplies and excellent curricula to a lot of at-risk Central Texas kids whose families couldn't otherwise afford to participate.  I have personally talked to kids who got to hike Philmont because of Scouting, but whose families could never afford to take them to the country.  I shook hands with brothers who are now attending college, who didn't realize it was an option until getting information from their Scout leaders.  Tonight, I'll get to meet our latest local lifesaving Scout, a teen who provided critical first aid to a man injured in a terrible motorcycle wreck.

While all sorts of charities are asking you to give in December for a 2013 tax deduction, seriously consider Souting.  You can be confident that Scouting actually changes lives - permanently. 

Take part in #GivingTuesday by giving to a year-round program that changes kids’ lives for the better, and helps them succeed in life. Visit http://www.bsacac.org/givingtuesday to learn more and give.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Knitting a Bit - Mobius Scarf

This weekend has been so hectic, and so fun, that it wasn't until yesterday that I got any time at all to knit, and that was interspersed with listening to my son and his buddy watching the remarkable college football games, cooking, doing chores, filling orders (the Black Friday special's still on), buying groceries, and the kind of what-have-you activities that make one wonder, "Where did the weekend go?"  This wasn't conducive to working on my current "Fabled Cables" projects.

I decided to knit something smaller and faster late in the afternoon.  I have far more ideas for knitting than I ever seem to have time to knit, but I have been thinking about a really good Mobius scarf for a while.  I had made a bunch of them quite a few years ago, but never was really satisfied with them.

One of my readers wrote me about grafting ribbing, and he said he'd been able to do a good job grafting knit one, purl one ribbing by putting the stitches on knitting needles (instead of waste yarn) and doing it that way.  That got me to thinking about an invisibly grafted Mobius scarf.

My best Mobius scarf so far is really good sock yarn, about 100 grams, knit 5, purl 5 over 110 stitches, 225 rows begun and ended with waste yarn, then twisted once and grafted as invisibly as I could.  This was done on the standard gauge machine at tension 8.1, both main bed and ribber, and you have to get things adjusted well so that all the stitches always knit off - just enough weight, and smooth-feeding yarn at a fairly loose tension.  I made three of them before I was fairly happy, sewing them up as the guys yelled at the TV. 

Here's how the scarf looks, first around the neck as a cowl and then pulled up to keep neck and ears warm.  

You could block the knit 5, purl 5 flatter, but mine, following the natural roll of the knitting, gathers up almost double and is quite thick.

There's one problem, at least for now.  While I finally managed an excellent, nearly invisible graft. visible in the macro picture as the lightest row in the middle of the photo, I haven't figured out how I'll film and teach the technique.   I have a few ideas, but I'll have to experiment.  It probably needs to be taught using bulky yarn and having a single row of thread or ravel cord as a "guide line" to follow as you sew.

Perhaps this can be my December video, perhaps not - we'll see.