Thursday, December 31, 2009

3 New Videos: Knitting Socks on Standard Machine

You can knit excellent socks on the standard gauge machine. There are lots of wonderful books on the market with patterns and instructions on machine knitting socks. Over the years I've tried a whole bunch of different methods. Lately, I puzzled over what kind of socks would be best for video lessons. I considered making a simplified sock that would be easier to teach and knit, but I decided to teach the best possible socks, even though this video is more difficult. I'll have to wait and see how knitters managed (I answer knitters' questions by email every day).

Should I go flat, main bed only, and have you seam them? Should I go toes-down, and put two seams in the cuff, like my fave Passap sock? Or toes-up and put one seam in the cuff? I finally decided to do toes-up with one seam. I think it's the best possible sock if you don't have a circular sock knitting machine because it has the fewest seams.

This is a little more difficult than some projects, but so what? It's a series of straightforward steps, and a little practice will conquer them. As you knit a few socks, you will master a whole bunch of useful MK techniques.

The overarching principle in knitting is quality. Just as I strive hard for quality in the video project, which is my current stiff learning curve, you're striving for a quality product, for something to delight the recipient. If you're going to all that trouble to learn machine knitting, to pay for terrific equipment and supplies, then whether you're making a sock or a designer sweater knock-off, you want a quality finished result.

There's no point in making socks with crummy yarn. Use a good superwash wool yarn with some nylon content for socks that last. You can wear holes in an all-acrylic sock in nothing flat, maybe even in one wearing. I have homemade wool/nylon socks in my sock drawer that are years old.

Here is the latest about the DVD project. A lot of folks have asked me to make DVDs of the lessons available for purchase. This week, I was on vacation and I was able to spend time learning the new camera and the new editing software. The DVDs we've recorded and played back on our TV are amazing. Even on the standard machine with itsy sock yarn, you can see the tiny stitches and all my goofs and fumbles in almost painful detail. Soon, I hope to have the sock DVDs and a companion book with all the sizes available for sale.

I jump off on the DVD project with this one; it's a start to see how they are received.

Go up to find the sock videos!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Resolutions and Knitting Socks

Our Weight Watchers talk tonight was about New Year's resolutions.

Y'all already know that I already made one resolution, to make the best quality videos ever, and then tonight I went to WW class in the miserable cold rain and got all inspired by a 70-year-old lady attending class. She said she went white water rafting last year, and her goal this year is to ride a zipline in Hawaii! She got me to thinking...I am mulling exciting things that I could do that I have never done before. Gosh, I'd love to ride on a zipline. White water rafting was incredibly fun. I went with friends, and if my friends hadn't wanted to go, I wouldn't have tried it.

What would you resolve to do that is totally out of your box?

Knittingwise, I hope I put some things on the blog that inspire you to do something entirely different.

For instance, some time back I was talking with my girlfriend, who said that she didn't buy an expensive knitting machine and spend months learning to work it just to knit socks! Socks are much too ordinary. She had more glamorous projects in mind.

As a matter of fact, I felt exactly the same way myself. I didn't learn to knit to knit socks, for Pete's sake. However, somewhere along the way I knitted some socks and now I'm hooked. My handmade socks are warm, soft, beautifully fitted so they stay up without all that nasty elastic in commercial socks, and they breathe because they are natural wool. Even worse, I shared some with relatives and friends who are also hooked now. I crank out many pairs of socks each year, normally on my amazing antique circular sock machine. I buy fun, crazy colors. I've experimented with lots of different sock yarns, but my preference is superwash wool with a little nylon for wear.

Socks make wonderful gifts, and they're a great little project for evenings when I've come home tired and just want to knit a little while.

You don't have to have a circular sock machine to make good socks. You can make 'em on the standard machine with ribber, as well.

A sock is a complicated shaped piece of knitting. Expect this to be a little more tricky and to require some practice.

Now I need to go to the knitting machine and get the video made showing how to do a sock on the flatbed standard machine with ribber!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Video - Dyeing Wool Sock Yarn With Kool-Aid

Here's my newest video, filmed on my new hi-def camcorder:

New Resolutions & New Videos

After putting over a hundred videos up on YouTube over these past few months, we decided I must be pretty serious about this project and we ought to invest in better equipment. John and I purchased a high-definition camcorder and new video editing software so I can work in true high-definition resolution.

I was pretty dazzled by the camera after I got it working last night - took footage of my little dog and could see his individual hairs when we played it back through the television!

Naturally, the next step was to shoot a knitting video! I wanted to do something fun, so I filmed a video on dyeing sock yarn with Kool-Aid. John calls it "Dyeing With Diana" which isn't very nice, but I'll let that go. Kool-Aid dyeing is great fun, and maybe I'll put up a sock project, on the flatbed and not my circular sock machine, to go with the dyeing video. One luxury a machine knitter ought to indulge is the desire for wonderful, soft real wool socks, machine-washable besides.

I have plugged away at learning the new video software and at making this first video file. This software and camera will allow me to create DVDs with genuine high-resolution to make it easier to see what I'm doing as I demonstrate knitting. I go into the New Year determined to create higher-quality videos, and the new equipment plus the many lessons I've learned so far will help me get there. I'll be able to create true DVD disks, but I'm concerned about how large those files will be and how much will fit on one disk.

YouTube videos fit in the little box, which reduces the resolution anyway. I am creating the YouTube file and am curious how much better it will look than what I had in the past. We'll soon see, won't we?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Greetings!

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

And for grins...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Warm Ribbed Scarf to Knit

I did a project video today, a scarf made on the bulky machine with ribber using 2 skeins of Lion Brand Homespun yarn. This yarn is a little tricky to knit with, certainly as thick a yarn as you are going to be able to run through a 9mm bulky machine.

This simple scarf is a long rectangle of double fisherman ribbing. It's about 6' long and over a foot wide.

Here's the video:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Profile Picture

I put up a new profile picture. I just got a new haircut - my hair was below my shoulders, and half of it is gone now - so my profile picture is different (left margin & down).

Got the day off, need to knit quickly before kids start showing up!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Asking Me Questions

If you want to ask me a question, please email me at diana_knits at sbcglobal dot com. I like answering questions.

If you ask it in a comment, it's hard to find and the answer is hard to find unless you know which post has the comment attached. Also, if you ask over at YouTube and you've asked in a comment attached to a specific video, the same problem arises.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ready for Christmas

Last year, I struggled through the holidays overwhelmed with how much needed to be done for Christmas and I puzzled about how to organize myself. It is, after all, supposed to be a beautiful, meaningful celebration of our Savior and not just a stress bomb for the mom.

This year was completely different. To begin with, I made a decision not to worry about whether I was getting the best possible gifts! I have finally realized how impossible that is. I purchased gifts online for my out-of-state people and got all the orders done early. I stuck with things anybody would like or be able to use, for instance food gift baskets. Getting those packages mailed on time has been stressful in the past. While it is expensive sometimes to buy good gifts online plus pay shipping, there are deals out there and it was cheaper for us because it kept us away from the stores. Going to the mall with my husband, who enjoys shopping and feels no time pressure, can result in our buying all sorts of things along with the gifts. I'm the one who wants to buy it and get out of there, and John's the one who wants to browse, to get me to try on something he spotted or look in three more stores for the best price or item.

John's joke, for years, is that he has Christmas completely figured out - he simply lets Diana do it! That's not true - John likes to help, but I'm keeping the lists and making sure everything gets done. (Kudos to my sweet husband - it's our 35th anniversary today!)

You know what? If you buy online a few times, you find companies that are wonderful! No affiliation, folks, but my favorites are Amazon, L. L. Bean, Omaha Steaks, Guadalupe Smoked Meats, the Texas Pecan Company, and Wine Country Gift Baskets (not for wine, think chocolate).

I also made up my mind to be bullet-proof about difficult people. Nobody's been difficult yet, but if they are, I'm ready! If any gift just doesn't work, I kept receipts, and if anybody is so tacky as to unreasonably complain about a gift, well, that's their problem.

The tree went up a little late - the weather was dreary, and we were waiting for a nice day on a weekend to do that, and that slowed us down. However, we have a lovely fresh tree.

Recently, John's mother was hospitalized, and we have been extremely worried about her. John went to California for a few days to see her. She's doing MUCH better, and he's flying home today. It's a good thing I was psyched, because this meant that I didn't have his help for the last few things I needed to do, including buying our sons' presents. I sat with a cup of coffee and all the newspaper ads this weekend and decided what I was buying and where to go, then went out and got it done, including shopping holiday food specials since the boys will be home.

One thing I do that has worked well for me is I keep a spreadsheet with the names and gift ideas, and finally I mark what I actually purchased each person. Since I've kept it several years, I can see what I got them last year.

Another thing I do is keep a basket of already knitted gifts ready to go. These are items that don't have to fit - for instance, shawls, blankets, and scarves. I always have at least one baby blanket ready to go. That circular baby blanket that I put up a video on is a great choice for a generic baby gift, and you can mix the colors up for either a boy or girl without it looking boring. I wish I had more ideas that are good for men.

As to my goal of making the holiday meaningful, which I wrote about on the blog last year, I have already had some great experiences. For instance, I attended an amazing choral concert and a holiday musical/comedy revue, purchased a new holiday album, and found time to pore over the Christmas letters we received. We go to church all year, but Christmas Eve our church has a beautiful service, which is a "don't miss" activity for us.

Have you got any great holiday ideas that work well for you? I'd love it if you shared them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Knit Natters Annual Holiday Party and Gift Exchange

Knit Natters met on Saturday at Barbara's house, and had a great time. We had a good-sized group, lots of potluck food, and our usual crazy holiday gift exchange.

I kept my camera handy.

The first group of pictures are some highlights from the gift exchange. We bring something handmade, draw numbers, and do the swap-and-steal routine with them. This was a very lively exchange with more theft than I have ever seen! Here's a tote bag made by Mildren Beeson, held by its lucky winner, Sara. Next, Tiffany holding the item Sara brought (I won it. Perfect for me, holds an entire afghan!), a very large tote handwoven out of plastic grocery bags on a triangle loom. It's very soft and strong! Next item, Pat's show-and-tell item, a Knit Picks knitting tote with pockets and stiffening so it stands up. Next, Rose and Mary on the couch, and Mary's showing the scarf and hat that Tiffany (8 years old now!) made. This was "stolen" a couple times and I don't know who ended up with it. Next pic is Tiffany holding the chicken potholder that Rose knitted, also stolen. I am not sure who snagged it. Rose says she found the chicken pattern in a Charlene Shafer book. Next picture is Rose holding the crocheted shopping bags she originally got in the gift exchange, also "stolen," and went to somebody else, I think.

The next batch of photos pertain to our craft for the day. I think this was our best ever, but I realize that I always say that! Sara, who has made countless little fairies crafted from floral wire, wooden beads, wool roving, silk flowers, hot glue and other magic ingredients, showed us how to make them. Pictured are several of the samples Sara brought to our club meeting. Although I am hot-glue-gun-challenged, I am very proud of mine; she's a little girl riding on a red butterfly, and she's hanging in a prominent spot on my Christmas tree.

That last picture is Tiffany showing Barbara's show-and-tell project. She stood patiently while Barbara's wazoos were piled on her and I was getting the shot. Barbara has already made slippers for some deployed troops, and now she's doing wazoos, warm hats with long tails that can be wrapped around the neck for warmth.

At this meeting, we generally celebrate another year of Knit Natters! Month after month, Barbara Deike has hostessed this meeting at her house, even though she's got a very busy full-time job, a long commute, and a little granddaughter, Tiffany, to look after. Barbara has simply included Tiffany in everything, and she's one of us, even making a fancy project for the gift exchange. Barbara has been an incredible organizer and we are all very grateful for what she has done.

In January, we go back to our "normal" meeting format, which includes a Brother demo and a Passap demo. If you can make it, we'd love to have you!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Circular Swirl Baby Blanket - A Variation

Jimmy Vaughn gave me permission to put up this photo of the Circular Baby Blanket. This one is larger than normal for an older child. You can do this - just knit more stitches. And, there are two sections of each color for a whole different effect!

Jimmy's blanket makes me think of the circus.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bulky Lined Slipper - Here's the Pattern

I have put the pattern up as a .pdf over at Knit Natters:

You will find this pattern much easier to follow if you watch the videos:

Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2:

A few notes and comments:

1. Most people don't know sock sizes - at least I don't. What I decided to do was chart the slippers following the sizes at the Yarn Council's standards web pages. If you measure around the largest part of the foot (the ball) and you measure the length of the foot, you can pick your size that way.

2. The gauge of the slippers for the pattern is 4-1/2 stitches and 6-1/2 rows equals 1". In metric measurements, 18 stitches and 26 rows equals 10 centimeters. I got this with a light worsted weight yarn and Tension 4 on my Brother 270. Measure gauge with the yarn you are using for the outer slipper, not the lining. The lining is made on a tighter tension so it'll fit inside the outer slipper.

3. Yarn - For this project you can use up scraps of worsted weight yarn. Yes, American 4-ply acrylic yarn will work, but the better the yarn is that you use, the better your results will be. The slipper shown is less than 50 grams of each color. It's a woman's size 7-9 (sock size).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Knitted Slippers

Pix of the lined slippers I make on my bulky machine.

I've done some filming, but we are going out this evening. The editing and the pattern writeups will have to wait!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Getting Ready for Christmas?

I worked on getting ready for Christmas most of the weekend. I picked out and ordered all my out-of-state gifts online, having them shipped to the recipients in California. I had been thinking about what to give everyone for a while.

I struggle terribly with choosing gifts. It's almost impossible, when you see people very seldom, to choose an ideal gift. I know people who think they're great at giving gifts, but most of them aren't as good at it as they think they are. What I decided this year was simply not to worry so much about it - buy something nice that almost anyone can use, get it on its way, and forget it.

When I look at my blog last year, I recall my overwhelmed feeling as I struggled to make Christmas at least a little meaningful under the crush of endless shopping, events, and difficult people. This year I've adjusted my attitude and strategy - I made the necessary decisions, accepted that they can't be perfect choices, purchased the items, and now I can relax.

Saturday morning, John and I sat at the kitchen table and did all the Christmas cards. He helped me decide what to put in a letter, and we printed those. We used a Christmas address list that I keep on the computer.

The neighbor came over Saturday and asked John if we'd chip in on a new fence on one side of the house. John hired the guy to replace our worn out fence, and we split the cost of two sections with neighbors. These houses were all built around the same time and all the fences are needing replaced.

When our son comes for Christmas, his dog won't be able to pop a board loose and wander the neighborhood. As a puppy, she jumped fences, but now she's heavier and I don't think she will give us that problem. Luckily, neither his dog or ours is a digger.

This morning, this netbook that I use so much acquired a horrendous virus. I've seen this thing before - it announces that you're infected, pretends to run a scan, and wants you to buy their product. I spotted it immediately and stopped it from completely installing itself, but still, I had to work on the netbook for hours to get it completely off. There's a similar one we've had at work that I had gotten good at getting off, but this one is a bigger problem. My son's computer upstairs has yet another different but similar virus, and we still have to clean it up. Because it ran a little longer, it's more entrenched. I'll have to take his hard drive out of the computer and put it in an enclosure, then clean off the virus files, because his computer won't function at all. I was not very happy to be stuck at home doing what I so often have to do at work, but hey, I beat the virus in the end.

I also packed up the warm hats for the children in Tibet.

And, I wrapped up my stuff for Knit Natters' gift exchange next Saturday. Sorry, it's a secret!

Next Video - Slippers

I love to knit slippers, and love to wear warm slippers. This will be a 4-ply slipper, fully lined for warmth, in a mocassin style. They aren't the usual machine knit slippers; it's one of my patterns. Anyway, the video is about half done.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Great stuff out on hand knitting blogs today!

Look what can be done with one ball of yarn:

Lacy scarf - cute - we could absolutely do this on our machines:

Anybody like illusion knitting? Darling holiday mittens which could be translated to machine knitting on a garter carriage, but with lots of stopping to change colors.

And another pretty triangle hand knitted shawl:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

All Kinds of Updates

1. Still doing Weight Watchers; I am not as diligent as I could be during the holidays, but I have finally realized that I have to work at it all the time for the sake of my health.

2. Plugging away on the written instructions to go with the beginner machine knitting course. This is exciting! I'm slow, though, as I strive for a high-quality product.

3. Did a whole pile of original new lace edgings, what Ludmilla calls an "automatic" edging where the lace carriage does the increases and decreases. You still have to add and remove needles at the right time. I have a longstanding routine that I use for that, which I plan to show in a video, and it works for me. I haven't seen anyone else do it quite the way I do. You'll either want to try it or you'll think I'm odd and it's not for you. Y'all have no idea what a knitting lace nut I am (yet).

4. The Sullivans are well into the annual holiday frenzy. In honor of Christ's birth, such a beautiful and meaningful remembrance for Christians, we run in circles with shopping, mailing packages, decorating, Christmas cards, parties, church activities, and several birthdays in December plus our anniversary! Yesterday was my wonderful husband's birthday, and I hadn't gotten my act together. I worked through lunch, left the office early, and shopped on my way home. I had the gift, card and a special dinner ready when he walked in. We ate quickly together and then went to a party. We went to a party the night before, too. And tonight, I have a meeting. We're going to eat fast food together first. I'm very grateful to have faith, friends, and family, but December is a frantic month.

5. Steven, our 19-year-old, has decided to transfer from Fordham University in New York to Texas A&M, which is less than a 2-hour drive from our house! We're very happy about this. They have a special program he wants to study. Every single person I ever met who went to Texas A&M thought it was a wonderful college and has terrific things to say about it, so hopefully Steve will also be very happy there. When he comes home on Christmas vacation, we can arrange to move him.

6. John Patrick, our 25-year-old son, has decided to spend some vacation days at our house at the end of the year. He'll bring his labrador. Steve will be home. My husband John will be home. I'll be taking some days off right at the end of the month, too. We'll have Steve's friends in and out, and two dogs, and it'll be fun. It's quite possible that I will get some knitting done!

7. Our anniversary on the 21st will be our 35th anniversary. We haven't planned anything special, but we're a couple of lovebirds and "still crazy after all these years," to quote the old Simon and Garfunkel song.

8. Just 'cause I'm busy and not getting vids up right now, don't wonder if I'm discouraged or wandering away from doing knitting videos. I plan to do lots more in 2010.

9. Knit Natters has its annual gift exchange and party on Saturday the 12th. We bring something we made or something knitting related for the gift exchange. I haven't decided what to bring, except that I am probably NOT bringing socks again this year. Pat and Sara ARE doing a holiday craft hands-on activity with us! Yes! Of course, new people are welcome at the Christmas party! Email me. In January we will go back to regular club meetings with knitting demonstrations.