Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Inspiration: Norway!

Adorable mk dress:

Important - Changed Location & Time For Knit Natters

On April 10, Knit Natters will meet at usual, but at 10 a.m. at Sylvia's house in Round Rock.  We changed the time so that some of us could attend the Cedar Park Heritage Festival.  We will have a contingent spinning and doing antique circular sock machine knitting at that event later in the day, and anyone interested can attend that as well.

I'll come up with a knitting demonstration of some sort for Sylvia's house, but I'm not sure what I'll do.  I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How To Get More Machine Knitting Done, While Having More Fun

Here are some tips for getting more machine knitting done (please note:  I DID NOT say knit faster):

1.  Knit every day, even if it's only twenty minutes.  I am serious about this - I sometimes only crank one sock, but I do try to knit every day that I'm not out for the evening, and I work full-time.  The more I knit, the better I knit; the better I knit, the more fun it is.

2.  Once you get a great pattern, knit the smithereens out of it!  This is a simple but dazzlingly effective strategy to get the most out of your machine, long before you are an expert..  I have several friends who knit amazing amounts for charity, and every one of them manages it by using favorite patterns over and over.  Those patterns are absolutely mastered, yet they avoid boredom by changing the colors, stitch pattern, or some other aspect.

One of the blog readers has "gone to town," as my grandma used to say, with the Circular Swirl Baby Blanket.  She's knitting it in 4-ply yarn for grownups, she's knitted it in various colors and sizes

I knit a lot of socks, because my extended family loves my good-quality socks.  It doesn't really matter how tired I am, I can knit a sock and feel better.

A few years ago, I designed a thread lace afghan, worked on it until I was completely satisfied with it,  then bought piles of cones of white chenille and white wooly nylon (for the thread), then knitted that beautiful afghan for each of my four siblings for Christmas.

3. If you want to make clothing, master your tracing device.  Just last week I was wearing a 10-year-old sweater I made with Millor Andino, a short-sleeved, jewel-necked shell, and I got several compliments.  I hadn't worn it in ages because I got too big for it a few years ago, but now I have slimmed down enough to wear it.  I made that garment shape over and over, using my old Knitleader with different yarns and stitch patterns, because it was so practical to wear a short-sleeved top to work with slacks or a skirt.  This one is off white with a lace pattern in the yoke only, but I've also made it with cables down the front and a puffier sleeve, with a hand-transfer design down the front, with a diagonal lace yoke, with cables all over, and I don't know what else.  Once I got the "roadmap" to fit, every single version fit.

4.  Make swatches ahead of time.  I like to "play" with a new cone of yarn, knit swatches until I get a stitch pattern I like for it, and then make the gauge swatch, block and launder it for later.  It gets that whole time-consuming process out of the way even while I'm still working on something else.

5.  Attend a knit club, or do Ravelry, or somehow have buddies with whom you share your progress.  I don't know how many months I set the goal of having a project done in time for the Knit Natters meeting!  Somehow, being with the other knitters, seeing what they're doing, and having that soft deadline really kicks me into gear, and I know several of my friends feel the same way.  Pat Tittizer is working on the most amazing hand knit Entrelac sampler afghan, with all different squares (nope, sorry, I didn't take a picture yet because it's unfinished and because I'm an idiot for not taking pictures Saturday, but I will try and get one next month). Well, it jump-started me - I went home and played with Entrelac on the bulky machine for a few hours, and am well on my way to making a unique demo out of it.

Of course, now that I have the blog and videos I've gone completely bonkers and am doing more than ever.  It's the flow of ideas from the other blogs, the readers, the photos people send, and the wonderful questions kicking up my motivation and imagination!

The sew-as-you-go sock I wrote is a great little pattern, and I came up with it because several people asked for a sock that did not require a sock machine, or even a ribber. I tried an idea, and it worked. The short-rowed baby hat happened partly because a commenter had me thinking about baby hats.  I got the idea for this post from several people remarking lately that they wonder how I get so much knitting done...

6.  Try small fast projects, like hats, slippers, socks, mittens, pillows, and scarves.  The ribber scarves I've been working up (I hope it turns into a book and DVD set) will be single-evening patterns, in fact, things you can make after a day at work.

7.  Know when to walk away from a loser project.  If you're sick and disgusted with the project, you could use a break, at the very least.  This is supposed to be fun!  If the project is going very badly, maybe it's not practical - the wrong yarn, the wrong machine, mistake-ridden instructions, a nagging sense that it won't fit, or maybe too difficult or tedious for your knowledge level or your temperament.  Take a day when you're psyched up - remember, your time is valuable, God loves you, and your dear ones want you to be a happy person - and dump your older loser UFOs (unfinished objects).  Maybe they're good enough for the thrift store, or maybe there's a handicrafts consignment store or yarn shop in your town that can lead you to a person who will finish some for you.  Maybe they belong in the trash, or unraveled.

Back in school, we all used school supplies and valuable time to practice the skills we were learning, like writing or working math problems.  You can look at those LOSER UFOs as valuable practice, but make them history now so you can move on.  Let's not leave these UFOs in our way, using up our living space.

If your UFO is a complete loser, it may not be your fault at all!  Some patterns are losers. One reason I discipline myself to do videos of the patterns I put out there for beginners is that I'm showing you that it is a practical pattern.  I abandoned a couple of ideas midway because I didn't want to inflict them on anybody.  Maybe your pattern has such skimpy directions that you can't follow it, or is simply too difficult or tedious for you, or maybe the pattern is only pretty on a beautiful model standing in an odd position so as to hide the cuffs or with safety pins in the back to hide a fitting problem.

8.  Find your favorite yarns.  I almost didn't include this, since if you're doing all these things, you will have found favorite yarns along the way.  Let me just lay it on the line:  your favorite yarns and mine will be different!  For instance, I like to machine wash things, so I don't use a lot of fancy fibers.  On the other hand, there are some natural fibers I consider a total treat, and I turned completely green when Pat remarked at Knit Natters that she got a whole carload of alpaca cheaply one weekend!

I never heard anyone else say Millor Andino was a favorite yarn, but I only used it twice, and both those sweaters lasted through years of systematic neglect and mistreatment.  They got thrown into the family wash, machine washed, tumbled dry, and thrown onto a hanger.  Yes, that yarn was very synthetic feeling, but it sure did hold up for a busy mom.

Reynolds Kitten used to be a favorite hand knitting yarn for me and my customers, because it felt soft and natural, it had a little fluff, and it washed and dried beautifully.

9.  Knit for charity.  How can you dwell in the dumps when you are genuinely helping someone else?  It seems quite impossible to knit for charity without helping yourself.

There are so many wonderful charities that could use your help!  A friend at church, who works at a hospital, told me that the donated knitted blankets are the only ones a lot of the new moms have.  Two knit club friends knit like crazy for a Native American tribe in very cold country - every bit of it is wool, usually thick wool.  Crisis pregnancy centers are looking for pretty baby things for the new moms.  Our local Junior League collects warm clothing for an annual "Coats for Kids" drive, and there's probably something like it in your community. People with cancer need hats. Guideposts magazine collects T-sweaters (there's a pattern or two you can use for that project on this blog).  Struggling with gauge?  Well, a child's charity sweater given to your local kids' shelter or home will fit one of the kids!

10.  Do a knit-along with friends - like everyone making an afghan square, or everyone making the same project.  Again, you get that friendly symbiosis going.

Whew, lots of ideas, hope one or two is useful for you.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Video Today! Zigzag Racked Ribber Scarf

Here's the new video!

I do suggest that you get familiar with you ribber before doing these ribber scarves.  I wouldn't say they're very hard - just rectangles - but I have a lot of steps to cover on the videos and I don't cover the same materials that are in the ribber course all over again.

If you're a beginner, before you dive right in, work through these videos (watch and do):

Ribber Lesson 1 - Circular Cast-On

Ribber Lesson 2 - Full Needle Rib

Ribber Lesson 14 - Loop Through Loop Bind-Off for Ribbing, Off Machine

Ribber Lesson 20 - Racked Ribbing Pattern

Friday, March 12, 2010

Brand new machine? How do I start?

I see emails, maybe one or two a week, from beginners asking how to get started. I wrote another typical reply today, and thought I'd excerpt it for the blog:

Dear New Machine Knitter,

I suggest that you learn the main bed first and the ribber later. It's just too complicated to start right out trying to make complicated things that use both the main bed and the ribber when you’d be much less frustrated doing the main bed lessons first.

Is your machine a standard gauge? It is if the distance from the center of one needle to the next is 4.5 millimeters. A bulky machine is 9 millimeters from the center of one to the next.

Go skinny on the yarn for your standard machine, I mean really skinny. The skinny stuff will make your life better as you learn! You want lace or fingering weight on a cone. Say, 2/24 or 2/12 at the cone yarn websites. If you contact Stephanie’s yarn, she sells the industrial stuff and you can get a couple cones in contrasting colors to practice with. Tell Stephanie you are a beginner. Get colors that aren’t too dark or too bright. She’s a good gal - and her yarn is not very expensive. It takes a long time to use it up, though, as it comes in big cones. Cone yarn is even treated with a lubricant and knits more smoothly.

If you use cones, you don’t have to use your winder to prepare the yarn. If you do use the yarn winder, you want the yarn to come out of the ball with absolutely no tension at all. Either pull from the outside and put the whole winder core on the floor, or pull from the inside but have it wound quite loosely. Best place to put your yarn is on the floor – it feeds better if there is more distance from the yarn to the upper tension unit.

Okay, next thing, seriously, consider working right through my beginner course on videos. It’s free – all YouTube – and each lesson is 10 minutes or less (because that’s the YouTube limit). Just do ‘em in order. Don’t start right in wanting to knit a project, even if you are an accomplished hand knitter, weaver, or crocheter, because machine knitting is just plain different. Just "waste" some cheap yarn to make samples. In fact, whenever a new person comes to our club with a new machine, I like to give her two cones of thin yarn in contrasting colors so she can just knit samples.

At least, watch the videos, and learn the lingo and the machine knitting way of thinking about things. Right now, if you’re like I was, your machine is an enormous assortment of unfamiliar parts that do peculiar things, and the videos will really help. I have taught a lot of people to knit in this way. Here’s the link to the list of lessons:

My blog ( is crammed with all kinds of other machine knitting stuff, a beginner course, a ribber course, a garter bar course, and lots of project videos and patterns. I am pretty much devoted to providing beginner materials.

Do swatches first, before attempting a project. The Circular Swirl Baby Blanket is a good project. The beginner's V-neck kids' sweater is a very detailed video course showing how to do every step. There’s a fair isle sweater on the blog for kids that’s just rectangles, too.

You will benefit a lot from ideas and help from others. Here are two ways to find that. Go to Yahoo Groups and search on machine knitting, then sign up for the machine knitting list. It will send you emails from the other knitters, who are really nice and will answer almost any question you post to the list. Next idea, go to our club site, and look at the links. There are some great links there to get more information on the internet. (Then, on those sites, look at their link lists, and you can read forever and ever...) Finally, post a note on the machine knitting Yahoo group and ask everyone if there’s a knitting club in your city. You’ll probably find the closest one pretty quickly that way.

You would enjoy a machine knitting club. First of all, I’ve never met a knitting group that wasn’t a nice group of people; secondly, they usually have lessons, demos, and show-and-tell at their meetings, and thirdly, they are often affiliated with a dealer (although our club in Austin has no dealer L). A dealer can help you find all kinds of things and can answer questions, yet they are hardly ever pushy or unpleasant.

Good luck! Stay in touch!

Diana in Austin

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Teaser - Another Ribber Scarf Photo

Still plugging away on my "educational" scarf patterns.

Maybe you don't want an education - maybe you just want to knit some terrific scarves and try some new patterns.

It's like eating potato chips from an endless bag. I don't know how many ribber scarves I'll figure out or when I'll be finished, but I'll know when I'm done.
This one is a simple racked ribbing, not impressive at all to a Passap knitter, but why should those Swiss knitters do all the cool ribbing stitches, when so many are quite practical on a Japanese machine?

The only really tricky part is keeping track of what racking number you're on. If a stitch glitches, the phone rings, or you're called to the next room, you stop knitting. When you return, can you find your place again? After all, there are 600 rows in this project!must rack every row, this is not a motor job. I was surprised that it actually wasn't too boring or hypnotic, even though I was quite tired last night. I gradually came up with a simple way to keep my place in the racking, as well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Short-Rowed Baby Hat

Sometimes it takes more than a little trial-and-error to get an idea into yarn!

At last, after making every possible mistake and inventing a few new ones, recharting and reknitting several times, I have finished an interesting little project for y'all. I considered memorializing my false starts by making a photo of all the strings, swatches, tangles, and messes on the floor by my machine, but in the end I wussed out, discarded all the casualties, and photographed the good hats.

I get frustrated, walk away, but keep on coming back until the problems are solved and any objections the machine raises beaten down.

It's a baby hat, knitted sideways, and the crown shaped by short-rowing. A picot hem is applied later. It's cute; just a little Bernat coordinates yarn. You just need a dab of sport-weight yarn, the finished hat weighing in at just under one ounce. Scraps? Handfuls? You will find a variegated yarn the most interesting, unless you'd like to change colors around the sections of the little hat.

I admit, this is a lot more trouble than just a hem, a rectange, and a gathered top, but it's a fun little pattern and really takes advantage of self-patterning yarn. I like the geometry of the little cap.

Here's the video, in two parts:

Short-Rowed Baby Hat
by Diana Sullivan

Materials: Sport-weight yarn, about 1 ounce (28 grams)
Machine: Standard gauge machine, no ribber or patterning necessary

Cast on 40 stitches with contrasting waste yarn, tension 8, knit a few rows, end with carriage on right.

Knit 1 row, hat color, from right to left
Set machine for short-rowing
Short-row decrease 3 stitches on the right side, knit across, wrap, and knit back (this pattern seems to work better if you do not do automatic wraps)
Repeat until the needles are on hold to #3 right.
Knit across all stitches, that completes one triangle (carriage is on right)
Make 10 trianges, 140 rows
Take off on waste yarn
Rehang side of knitting, wrong side facing, picking up two stitches for every three rows, and knit an 8-row picot hem. Pick the hem up, knit across as loosely as possible and cast-off.
Kitchener stitch the seam, remove waste yarn, mattress stitch the hem and gather up the hole at the top. Hide the ends. You're finished!


I've been making ribber scarves for a week, an assortment of colors, yarns, and patterns. The big idea is that a book of truly interesting ribber scarves provides a great opportunity to learn a whole lot about fancy ribbing while making a fairly easy and very gift-able project.

I can't say that any of the photos do them justice, so far. The bright colors just overwhelm the patterns, but here's one you can see for a teaser.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Burgundy Mohair Scarf: Important Notes About End Needles

First of all, I apologize for not including information in the video about end needle selection.

When you use a punch card or an electronic pattern with end needle selection turned on, every time you select, the machine picks out the end needles as pattern needles. That's fine unless you're in a needle setup with needles out of work! In this scarf, I'm doing 1 x 1 ribbing, so every other needle on the main bed is back in A position. End needle selection will select every needle, because, to the machine, every needle looks like an end needle.

Brother machines sometimes have a KCI and a KCII setting on the dial. The KCI setting selects needles and has end needle selection turned on. It's very useful, because you often do want end needle selection turned on. KCII turns it off - and that's what you need for this situation, with 1x1 ribbing.

My machine has KCII and I completely forgot that some machines don't. You can still turn end needle selection off, though, even without KCII, and it's not much trouble at all. Take the carriage off the machine and turn it over. Toward the back rail side, away from the presser plate, are the grooves where the needle butts travel, and there are two colored pieces. Insert a transfer tool in the little black part inside the colored piece and turn it 90 degrees. Flat is one setting, vertical is the other. You have to do it on both pieces, or else it will only turn end needle selection off on one end of the knitting. Test it before you knit, and you're off and running.

When you want end needle selection back on, flip it over and change it.

By the way, we do this with lace carriages as well for a very cool technique to show in some future video.

I will try to get some photos this evening, as I must work now. I think pictures will make it easier to follow, and redo this post with photos.