Saturday, September 25, 2010

ASK DIANA: I Want to Learn to Machine Knit

Reasonable questions:

"I want to learn to machine knit.  Where do I start?  How do I find a machine?  How do the find the resources I need for a beginner in your enormous blog?"

1.  An essay on choosing your first knitting machine  Shipping knitting machines is expensive and fraught with difficulties.  Try Craigslist to look at free classifieds in your area of the U.S..  John likes Craigfind for search for unusual things all over the country!

2.  If you do a lesson a day, you'll knock out the beginner course in a little over a month.  Watch a video, then do a video (Betcha you can't really do only one a day!)

3.  Once you learn the basics, you're going to want to make something!  Here are some appropriate projects for your very first efforts (main bed only):
4.  Got a ribber?  Here's the ribber course.  And, here are some beginning projects using your ribber:
5.  Got a garter bar?  Having one really will make knitting easier.  Here's the garter bar course.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Flooring Job Done

The living and dining rooms are floored - we had a crew there all day yesterday, with my patient husband dealing with issues as they came up.  This is a laminate, which we were told holds up better than wood with a dog, and we chose a glossy finish because our house is a little dark with a lot of shade trees outside the windows.  I absolutely love the new floor.  We know we need to do drapes and a number of other jobs, but those aren't such a bad job as flooring, which is rather like moving in and out of your own house.

We have a number of wood shades around the house including the mahogany piano and a dark cherry dining table in that area, and our color choice is fine.  The light colored tile has been in the house forever, and back then, with two little boys to raise, was part of my reason for choosing this house.  All the traffic areas downstairs, kitchen and baths are tiled.  

The rest of the house is complete and utter chaos.  It looks like it was attacked by evil cardboard monsters with boxes and piles everywhere.  We have packed up a lot of things, gotten rid of a lot of things, but we aren't even going to put everything we kept back into the spaces.  More de-junking simply has to happen.   

The carpet has arrived at the warehouse, but we need a little recovery and regrouping time before they come. The new carpet is made from recycled pop bottles.  We chose it for stain resistance and softness.  The softness is quite a surprise considering its origins. It's a good old, boring light honey color.  

Knit Flix: Home and gone again

Knit Flix: Home and gone again

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

De-Clutter Update

Tomorrow, a crew comes to put down the hard floor.  We're not doing carpet for a few more days.  Probably the biggest improvement in the house will be the de-junking we accomplished.

After clunking away at this a few days, a few insights came along:

1.  With Freecycle, no-shows are a real pain.  People say they are coming to get things, then don't.  I found that I have to set a deadline and then move to the next person.

2.  Most eliminated items should never have been allowed in our house in the first place.  The items accumulated because we thought we'd have time later to deal with them, and we never had the time.  For instance, we found a couple boxes of internal network cards.  John found such a good price on a whole group of cards (when he only needed one) that he bought the group and then never found a use for the rest.  I'm just as bad, having to give away a whole year of a magazine that I like very much because I never read them.  I figured 2009 had to go so I can try to read 2010.  I think I'll cancel that subscription.

3.  Dreaming aside, we're not going to get it all decluttered this go-around.  We will have accomplished a lot, but there is definitely more we can do, and must do, if we're going to downsize in retirement.  We need a strategy that involves continual decluttering of some kind so that the house gradually gets better instead of gradually getting worse!  What strategy might we adopt?  

4.  Now that I've spent a week of my precious "spare" time sorting through old junk, the reality bites about the direct trade-off between spending my time on "stuff" and spending my time on "people."  Friends of ours spend every Christmas holiday on a vacation instead of exchanging gifts.  Maybe that's the right idea!  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Inspiration at Needles to say...

Photos of Mary Ann Oger's beautiful new knitted jacket.  Worth enlarging and looking closely at the details.

Needles to say...: September update

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Sullivans De-Junk

John and I decided to replace the carpet in our house.  It's the original carpet from 1990.  First, we thought we might do the downstairs only, just to put off the work necessary to move everything so we can recarpet and then move it back.  Then we decided to get it all done.  We decided to declutter as much as possible as part of this process.

We started cleaning out last weekend.  All we have are weekends and evenings, and we had a lot of commitments to keep last weekend.  We're spending an hour or two each evening, working together to de-junk, and it's going much better than I expected.

In the past, one of us would start and get paralyzed by not knowing how important the items were to the other person.  We started our hardest spot last night, a little "bonus room," like a large closet, that was full of kid stuff, computer stuff, old books, you name it.  There's even a Passap in there!  I absolutely thought that would be the worst room, but it wasn't so bad.  With us both there, we mostly wondered why we had kept a lot of it.

I've read all kinds of books about getting organized, but we are hard cases.  Here are some things that are actually working for us:

1.  Give some things away.  Once you give a certain amount to charity, there's more documentation needed for a tax deduction.  So, instead of a thrift store and bothering with a tax deduction, we are using Freecycle to give good things away that we won't use.  It really helps us hoarders to realize that someone is going to get some good out of an item.  I loved imagining somebody else's kid playing with kites, models, and the like.  My friend wants the cuckoo clock DH doesn't want - I think she'll get a kick out of it.  Suddenly, dejunking is fun.

2.  I'm filling boxes of a certain type of item to give away, for instance, kiddie books, clothing, school supplies.  That way, someone who needs items of that type will find it worthwhile to drive to my house and get a whole box of related items.

3.  Start out with a mountain of empty boxes.  Without containers, you lose momentum.

4.  Have a deadline.  Those carpet guys are coming, and our time is limited.  Previous dejunking battles involved house-on-the-market deadlines.

5.  Repeat after me:  "Make a decision!"  We are helping each other decide, egging each other on, but whatever arbitrary rule (haven't used it in two years, some else will use it more than me) works to help you make a decision is probably a good rule.

6.  Guess what - it started to feel good after a while!  I felt overwhelmed at first, and I dreaded the job.  At some point last night, I suddenly realized that we are getting back a perfectly good little room.  We could use it for a desk, or a knitting machine, or a reading nook, instead of a messy, jumbled in-house storage area!  I had forgotten that it's a nice little room, and bigger than I thought - the junk that used to fill it seemed to make the walls sneak closer together..  I feel almost like the junk should have been paying us rent for using up our house.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ASK DIANA: I'm having trouble casting on

I got an excellent question over at YouTube today.  This knitter has acquired a used Studio machine and casting-on always seems to go wrong on the second pass.

I'm at a loss because I can't see exactly what happens.  I wouldn't mind watching a video, if you could send me an mpeg or similar file to my email address, diana_knits at

My readers know that I'm not much of a Studio knitter - yet.  However, they often have great suggestions.  Please look through these suggestions of mine, and readers, please give this new convert some ideas, too, by putting other suggestions in the comments.

Have you tried the cast-on where you bring every other needle into working position (leave the others back in A), knit a row, hang a comb, bring out the in-between needles, knit a row, and you're done?

Have you tried e-wrap cast-ons?

How about "rag" cast-ons, where you take a piece of knitting knitted on another machine and stick it on the needles instead of casting on at all, then knit a row of ravel cord and then start knitting with the garment yarn?

Also, you can try bringing the needles out to hold position after each row.  That can really help.

Using a cast-on comb can help hugely after the first row.

If none of these work, something's might be wrong with the machine, but probably not something serious.  Make sure your wheels and brushes on the carriage spin freely.  They can get fuzz under them and get stuck.  Make sure no brushes are sticking down and snagging everything.  Make sure the machine slides easily when there's no yarn in it but some needles are in working position.

Double-check that you're threading the machine correctly.  Oh, and post a note on the Machine Knitting group at Yahoo asking for other machine knitters in your area.  You will surely benefit from having a club or buddy have a look at the situation.

Let me think about this, and readers, please make some suggestions on the blog.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Knit Natters Meeting Saturday

Knit Natters met Saturday at Barbara's house, and at some point during the meeting I woke up mentally and started taking pictures.

Oh, yes, I know when it was.  It was when Pat brought out this jaw-dropping, gorgeous lace project during Show and Tell!  Check it out...a hand knitted lace sampler with a beautiful edging.  She's working on another lace sampler now.

Upper left, Sara is doing very clever knitting frame baskets using plastic grocery bags!  She weaves the bottom (yes, weaves) on the knitting frame and then knits from the bottom up.  We learned a new-to-us word:  plarn (plastic yarn).

We had a small group, but some terrific projects going on all around us on Saturday.  We also have a new person!  Margareth, a nursing assistant who lives in Pflugerville with her husband and two teens, is getting back into knitting and has unpacked her wonderful old Lanofix 321 that she purchased in Brazil.  She hunted around and found the manual in Portugese - good thing she can read it!  I have pages from a manual that a knit lister was kind enough to send me, in English, that will help me help Margareth if she needs any help.  Lanofix, by the way, is a Silver Reed machine.  She's sharp as a tack, though, and I figure she'll be teaching us in no time.  Here's Margareth (not a very good picture, I'm afraid, with her face turned away) chatting with Mildred as Mildred showed the scrubbers she knits.  Mildred, who is a retired R.N. and Margareth, who is a C.N.A. working on a surgical tech certification, got to talking hospital talk.  Mildred is 97 now and bring some new project to show us every month, in fact, usually several projects.

Barbara is Passapify-ing some of my patterns, including this scarf, modeled by the lovely and talented Tiffany, who did one of our demos!

Barbara's granddaughter (age 7 now) showed us how to make a cute, loopy hair scrunchie on the Brother machine.  This was her first demonstration, and she did an excellent job.  Since she likes to wear them, it's a good thing she's whipping them out now instead of having her Grandma do all the knitting.  She has also helped Barbara make wazoos for the troops.

Hmm, I wonder if our youngest member would let me film her for YouTube.  I bet she would.

And, here's missy with Barbara's latest porcelain doll.  Yup, Barbara pours the porcelain, fires it, paints, re-fires, etc.  An amazing amount of work goes into these dolls.

The doll's outfit is a double jacquard sweater that Barbara demonstrated last month plus a pair of baby pants (using the Forma!  I so want to master the Forma) that she demonstrated this month.

My Show and Tell was to talk about the wonderful experiences we had at the Space City Knitters seminar, and Barbara and I both showed off our beautiful embroidered Space City Knitters name badges.  We were planning to pick on Sylvia to come up with an embroidered badge for OUR club.  Sylvia was getting in a CPR class she needs for her teaching job at a preschool.  Sylvia, are you reading this?  This is not a hint, it's shameless begging.

Here's a picture of my name tag from Houston.

I had gone over to Margareth's house in Pflugerville on the way to Knit Natters and had a look at the Lanofix.  I persuaded Margaret to bring some of her projects from her Lanofix.  Here's a sweater that reminds me of Charlie Brown:

Bea and Margaret from San Antonio weren't able to make it because Margaret was scheduled for a cancer treatment Saturday.  Margaret, you're on all our minds and in our prayers.  We're looking forward to seeing Margaret's summer fair isle project.  It was Margaret's idea to get Tiffany started with being a demonstrator.

I did the Tam demo - I was hoping to show the automatic short-rowing method (which isn't in my YouTube video of how to make the Tam), but we had a few technical difficulties with Barbara's 965i mispatterning - probably just a sponge bar - so I showed the short-row method.  Margareth and I were breathing down Barbara's neck as she did that Forma demo.  It was Margareth's first encounter with a Passap E6, and we told her about Strippers and Pushers.

We are working on a Knitapalooza for sometime next year.  We have a spot lined up.  I know, a Knitapalooza needs to be really big and exciting, but ours will have to start out small and exciting!  It just sounded like a good, weird Austin name to me.  You know, Austin has a slogan, "Keep Austin Weird?"  What we need are knitters to come to Central Texas and participate.  Pat says she'll demonstrate, and there's me, Bea and Barbara.  Bea and Barbara are terrific on the Passap.  We'd like feedback, so please email me if you are interested in something like this:  diana_knits "at"  And yes, we would love to have a yarn shop participate or some sock crankers...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sound Off

Hey, knitters, boss me around about what you'd like me to work on next.  I'd love to know what I'm doing is what people want and need.

  I could...

...produce a book full of new lace projects a Knitleader course (and give some info about getting things to fit beautifully) a baby book

or, maybe something else entirely!