Saturday, December 31, 2011

Inspiration at Fruitcake Knits

Go nuts over the incredible hand knit lace at Fruitcake Knits!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Stupid Mistake

I am knitting the brown/pink Entrelac yoke sweater (to fit me) and I know for certain that I will run out of brown yarn, since the front took a ball and a half and there are only three more balls sitting here.  What a boneheaded mistake, not buying enough of the same dye lot.  Hmm.  It looked like a big pile at the time.

Tomorrow I'll go to the store and hope for another ball or two of the same dye lot.  I do love a day in the house, but it's time to leave the cave.  A little fresh air away from the computers and knitting machines will be nice (weather here is spectacular), plus, eventually we will run out of groceries.  You can't eat leftover Christmas goodies forever.  Someone might start to crave some protein.

Today was my last vacation day of 2011, and I spent it charting the sweaters for the Entrelac book.  Why, it wasn't that different from yesterday in the office, when I was sitting at the office computer balancing bank accounts.  Either way, I'm sitting at a computer, either at home or work, playing with spreadsheets.  Who knew knitting was so much like accounting?

Since I finally have settled on the knitting method, I sat down and worked out all the sizes.  I even did the extra calculations to move the yoke higher in back than front for an ideal fit and slant the sleeve tops to match.  Of course, there's a chasm between little charts covered in numbers that nobody can read but me (and I won't even make much sense to me, either, once they're stale) and a narrative that folks can actually follow.

Plus, I have to solve the size problem, that is, how to put all the sizes in the book and still have a readable book.  The charts are for multiple kids and adults sizes. I am thinking about doing my colored chart thing (you pick a color for your size and then fill the numbers from that color into the instructions) but there will be chunks of instructions and then little blocks of chart.  Of course, I might do it some other way...

I also want to mark the patterns with where to increase or decrease the length.  For my son and I, we both wanted a little extra length in the arms, and details like that make a huge difference in whether it ends up being a favorite sweater or a denizen of the back of the closet.

Inspirtion at Ozlorna's

Check out the beautiful handknit cabled sweater project at Ozlorna's blog, along with an excellent description of how to make a pattern work in different (thinner) yarn.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Steve's sweater - ON

It was Christmas, and I finished...

This is the pile of purple waste knitting, removed from Steven's sweater, and the red basting yarn, removed from Steven's sweater, and a lot of very long blue orts.  (An "ort" is a little piece of yarn left from sewing - for instance, when you do needlepoint, you collect little piles of wool orts.)  My orts for Steve's sweater are especially long, partly because I knitted one sleeve three times and the other, twice.  When I basted it together and had Steve try it on, the sleeves just weren't right.  He liked it so well that he wanted me to forget it and sew it up, but the sleeves were too narrow and I figured I better fix it.  The first time I re-knitted one of the sleeves, I dropped a stitch and didn't see it until later.  I re-re-knitted that out of sheer stubbornness, an exercise in patience, but it makes finishing all the sweeter.

The other reason I have such a large pile of orts after hiding the ends is that I have a longstanding habit of leaving long ends when I start and end each piece of knitting.  I use them for sewing later - I must avoid adding even more ends to hide!  Well, with all this re-, re-, re-knitting, I ended up working from several small balls of yarn and had lots of extra long ends (left long out of automatic habit) to hide.

So - how did the actual sweater turn out?  I think it's just great.  I am finally satisfied witth the order of knitting, the transition triangles, size and shaping, and I checked the fit by doing a basting and trying on.  That means I can finally start getting the patterns together.   This one has gone on forever! 

I don't get to have a picture of him wearing it yet.  He's lucky he went off to sleep over at a friend's apartment near U.T., or else I'd have probably dragged him semi-conscious out of bed to try it on.  He'll turn up later today and I'll get my pix.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Sullivan Family!

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ah! Christmas Eve.

The house is decorated and our son is home.  It's cold outside, and we're warm inside.  This is a moment to pause to appreciate the lovely holiday.  It's a time to think about each far-away family who sent us a card.  A time to bake a last batch of cookies, to wrap a couple last-minute gifts.   Later today we'll attend a beautiful Christmas Eve service, look around at the adorable little excited children in attendance, spend a little time thinking about Emmanuel, God with us, and light a candle.

For many of my bloggy friends, it's already Christmas Day, but it's Christmas Eve here in Texas.

Best wishes for a beautiful, beautiful holiday season, and a prosperous and loving new year.

December 24, Luke 24

Luke Chapter 24

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yoke for Steve's Sweater

I got some knitting time the past few days.  Since I'm doing the yokes first now (going to knit the sweaters upside-down, rehanging the yoke), I knitted my son Steven's yoke and showed it to him:

I'm very happy with the speckled yarns, which I think add interest and a masculine flair, but I'm less happy with the self-striping yarn that I used for rounds 3 and 5.  While the colors are perfect, I think that "ombre" or "spaced dyed" yarn with quick color changes works better for Entrelac, since the overall design is already busy.  One of the most enjoyable parts of this project has been choosing all the colors.

The body of the sweater is going to be the denim blue I used for round #4.  

Steve likes it.  (He also just loves the green I used for my first sweater in shaped Entrelac, so now I know about another color he really likes.)  

The neck is great, goes over the head easily and isn't too tight or loose.  We discussed how he wants it to fit, and I took some measurements so I can get it right.  If I do mess up the fit, it can be unraveled without disturbing the yoke, as long as I leave the waste yarn in place until the sweater is basted together and Steve tries it on.

December 22, Luke 22

Luke Chapter 22

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Inspiration - Crochet dress from Tathy's site

Whoa!  Who says crochet can't be sexy!  Check out this flippy mini-dress on Tathy's blog -

Tathy has a "Google Translate" gadget over on the right hand side of her blog, so you can see it in English.  This is generally a good blog to follow - very active, lots of pictures of beautiful handmade items.  I follow two Brazilian blogs, hers and Irma's and they are both a treat.

New Free Patt at Needles to Say

Mary Anne Oger has a garter bar project for your midgauge at her blog - a nice, dimensional blue scarf:

I view of the popularity of the LK-150 mid-gauge, I've decided to get one.  I actually have an unusual mid-gauge machine, the MK-70, which is 6 mm spacing, and there's no garter bar is available for that, as far as I know.  I like to teach on machines that lots of knitters have, an the LK-150 certainly qualifies for that.  Mary Anne used an LK-150 for this pattern.  She used to run lots of very nice mid-gauge patterns in KnitWords magazine, and did her share to popularize hand-manipulated work.

Notice how she's got you not only turning the work but occasionally moving every other needle for an eyelet lace?  That can be done with the garter bar, too.  Check out my lessons on how to do that:

Lesson 9 - Eyelets (2 Parts) Move ONLY Selected Needles!

Part One

Part Two

I admit this technique, where you move only the stitches on certain needles and all the other stitches stay put very securely, takes a little study and practice.  Once you practice it, though, you'll really like the efficiency of doing a whole row of eyelets so quickly and accurately on a machine where no lace carriage is available.

Oh, if only, if only the LK-150 or something similar were widely available in the everyday hobby stores and big box stores!  Maybe one of these days.  We'll all have to keep teaching new people to machine knit and bring the demand on up.  People are certainly paying for fancy sewing machines, so let's turn them on to KMs, too.

Fascinating Seaming Technique at Machine Knitting Is My Life

Sheryl's got a very interesting seaming technique, which I don't think I've ever tried.  Hope to try it out this weekend.  Check out her site:

BTW, thanks for the kind wishes re our anniversary.   What a lovely day we had!

December 21, Luke 21

Luke Chapter 21

Our Anniversary

John and Diana Sullivan

Married December 21, 1974

Still crazy after all these years...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Smokin' Hot Socks at Smoking Hot Needles

Cute hand knit Christmas socks:

I follow a lot of hand knitting blogs and see lots of beautiful projects.  I like to hand knit, but obviously am short on time.  Whenever I get whiny about not having enough knitting time, I think about some of the hand knitting bloggers who get SO much done! 

Adorable Free Pattern at Marzipanknits!

Mar's got a terrific site and I always keep an eye on it.

Now she has a baby Santa hat for you to knit, complete with instructions, at her site:

December 20, Luke 20

Luke Chapter 20

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Decorating the Christmas Tree

We finally decorated our Christmas tree this afternoon.  This lovely cut tree had been sitting there, carefully set up in its stand since last weekend, but we didn't find time or energy to do the job. 

But it's up now, and sparkling.   We always do an old-fashioned, mixed-up tree, and I always enjoy pulling out the old ornaments; for instance, Steven's picture on a juice can lid with lace around it, the "Baby's First Christmas" ornament my mom needlepointed for John, the plastic doves from our wedding cake, the tiny stuffed teddy bears we bought when we were first married, and some of the wonderful knitted, tatted, and porcelain ornaments my knit club girlfriends have made for me.

As I sit here, contemplating a weekend where I didn't do a lick of knitting and feeling a little guilt because I've got some lovely projects lined up, I read my mail and a friend sent a link to this fun video of dogs decorating a Christmas tree:

Enjoy.  And I'll enjoy my finished tree! 

December 18, Luke 18

Luke Chapter 18

Friday, December 16, 2011

Best Gifts for a Machine Knitter

I was thinking today that maybe there's a Santa-baby out there who is looking for excellent gift ideas for a beloved machine knitter. 

Here are some of the accessories that machine knitters absolutely love - and I've included links:

1.  Replacement ribber comb wires - these are so vastly better than the ones that come with the Brother ribbers that I think absolutely everyone who uses their ribber more than once a year needs a set!  Purchase from Helen Griffiths.  Be a hero for less than ten bucks!  Bulky wires, long $2.50; standard wires long $2.25; and medium for bulky and standard same size $2.00.

2.  Terrific garter bars from Kris Krafter.  A little expensive, but quality U.S. construction and one of the most useful accessories to ever hit machine knitting!  Contact Kris if you aren't sure about the sizes.  And buy a stopper, for heaven's sake!  I'll throw in a plug for my own garter bar course, if you know a knitter who has one and doesn't use it much.

3.  For the beginner in your life, the Beginner's Course from my own products.  The fact is, most of the machine knitters I know haven't had the opportunity to get a lot of personal lessons, and here is a big, fat assortment of video lessons in meticulous detail, enough to take anyone who practices them a little bit well out of the beginner stage.

4.  A Jumbo Yarn Winder is a great thing for almost any knitter to have.  I used to be a big fan of the regular small winders, but the Jumbo winder holds so much more yarn and winds so quickly that now I'm hooked on that one.  Here's one from Amazon.

5.  A new sponge bar.  These things wear out, and once they're flat and yucky, the machine won't knit properly.  I put in a link to the Knit Knack Shop, which has quite a lot of different sizes and is a great, fun place to browze for MK gifts. 

6.  Your knitter needs triangle weight hangers!  This is an accessory that I use constantly.  I carry them from machine to machine.  These weight hangers work well in many different situations!  This link is to Custom Knits and Manufacturing.  She has a lot of fun things at her site, too.

7.  A subscription to Country Knitting of Maine or Machine Knitting Monthly!  Either of these magazines will give your knitter hours of enjoyment and inspiration. 

I can easily think of two dozen other great gift ideas, and maybe some of my readers will chime in with great gift suggestions.  Here are a few more:  a yarn tree for storing lots of cones of yarn; The Prolific Knitting Machine, a wonderful book; Make Your Knitting Machine Sing, a book on tuning up your machine; or how about some luxurious cashmere yarn?

Quick Gift - Mitten

How about knitting a mitten?  These bulky mittens are really fun to make:

Quick Gift Idea - Easy Felted Slipper

I knit a lot of slippers and invent slipper patterns because I love to wear slippers.  Some of them are nice for a bed slipper, some of okay for warmer times of the year, and then there are some that are intended to keep your feet warm in the coldest weather.

These felted slippers, are definitely in the cold weather category.  Once they're felted and shrunk, they're amazingly thick and padded.  Warm hairy things, a coordinating accessory to go with a bearskin rug or maybe to accessorize the hunky caveman who keeps you warm.  Oops, I digress.

If you have never done a felted project, try these.  These are rather entertaining to make.  You have to watch them as they felt and shrink in the washing machine - because they change sizes pretty quickly.  I actually was fishing them out of the Maytag and trying them on repeatedly (wet and nasty!) or getting lucky old John (what a good sport) to try on the mens' version, as they felted in the machine. They shrink and shrink until they fit someone or other! 

December 16, Luke 16

Luke Chapter 16

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gift Idea - Flower Dishcloth to Handknit

I designed a whole assortment of hand knit round dishcloths, and haven't published it yet.  This one is a great favorite, and I put the pattern on the blog.

There are plenty of people who absolutely love good cotton dishclothes, and they make a nice small gift with handmade sentiment!  Let's face it, a really beautiful round dishcloth is a 'way cooler gift than an ordinary square one.

If you're adept at hand knitting, this can be done in an evening while you watch (well, listen to) your favorite holiday movies:

Pattern is here:

We watched "Elf" last night.  I laughed and laughed; from now on, when I see Bob Newhart, I'll be visualizing Papa Elf and when I see Ed Asner, I'll be seeing Santa. 

December 15, Luke 15

Luke Chapter 15

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick Gifts - Sew-As-You-Go Socks

Need a sock pattern that doesn't require a ribber or a genius at sewing seams?  This is a readers' favorite pattern that I wrote for making low-rise gym socks. 

For best results, use a good hand knitting sock yarn.  In particular, I like 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon.  My sock recipients absolutely love the colorful self-striping sock yarns, which are available in all the local yarn shops as well as Joann's, Hobby Lobby, and Michael's. 

This sock project is a little education in sew-as-you-go technique.  Watch the video closely and then take your time on the first couple of these socks.  Once you master the seaming technique, these are fairly fast to make.

December 14, Luke 14

Luke Chapter 14

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fast Gift Idea - Very Quick Afghan

Do you need a quick afghan?  No seams?  Wide enough without making panels?  Here's an offering, the Luxury Throw, which I originally made in a thin chenille.

What you want to make this project, the Luxury Throw, go very, very fast is a big cone of smooth, easy yarn.  You could make it on just about any machine with a ribber.  The secret to the pattern, which is a sort of striped reversible English Rib, is I have the "front" side of the work on the ribber for a while, and then on the main bed.

December 12, Luke 12

Luke Chapter 12

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fast Gift Idea - English Rib Child's Sweater

Link to all the information (videos, patterns) for the English Rib Child's Sweater

Crazy for Christmas

There's a moment during the holidays when the pressure hits me - Bam!  Zap!  Pow! Biff!  Just another mom felled by Christmas pressure.  But I'm doing well this year, with my strategies of online shopping plus taking vacation hours to get things done.

I'm not one of those folks who plans 'way ahead.  If I do, by the time I get to the holidays, I don't think the gifts are good enough any more.  I am not a confident gift-giver; I'm downright neurotic about it. One person I know thinks everything she gave anyone is absolutely wonderful, even if it's totally lame, and nobody tells her differently.  I wish I were more like her.  Instead, I think stupid thoughts like, will he ever wear it?  Is that really a color she likes?  Doesn't she have enough fragrance?  Will he think I didn't make an effort if I send a gift card?

My father-in-law, whom I still miss terribly after 22 years, used to grin at me and say, "Buy them something they don't want and don't need." 

Some of my friends follow another strategy - keep some boxes of chocolate on hand in case old friends drop by.  In case of a serious emergency, unwrap and eat the chocolate.

We also have several birthdays and our anniversary this month, before Christmas.

Last week, I sat down one evening and ordered all the out-of-state gifts (I have a pretty good list to do), drop shipping from Amazon.  I already had Amazon Prime so I'd get the free fast shipping, and I have their blog deal where I get a little commission on items purchased through the blog.  The last couple of years, I've purchased books, gift baskets, garden goodies, small electronics (well, Kindles - I'm a Kindle lover, which is how I turned into an Amazon nut), toys, and so forth from Amazon.  Amazon even has yarn.  I got all the out-of-state packages ordered in one evening, and they even have gift wrap available for many items.  I would put some photo of the really cute items I found for my sibs, if only I were sure they didn't read the blog.

John and I also took yesterday afternoon off (vacation time) and shopped for each other, purchasing practical things that I'll wrap up.  As of now, I've got gifts purchased except for two people, and I have a plan for those.

Earlier this week, my John had a sore throat and fever, my colleague at work fought it all week, and two other co-workers were fighting a nasty sore throat earlier on.  Several Knit Natters members have begged off today's party because they aren't feeling well.  I haven't actually gotten sick, but I was feeling off and tired, so I deliberately got some extra sleep this week.

I whipped up a gift last night (not my pattern, one from Rocking Horse Farms), but I can't put the photo up until after the Knit Natters party and Christmas exchange.  I am also bringing homemade bread, homemade chocolates (super easy recipe), and store-bought tamales to the party. 

I will continue to put easy gift patterns up on the site.  I know they're patterns I've run before, but having knitted all of this myself a number of times, I know which ones are fastest to make, which is what we need this time of year.

December 10, Luke 10

Luke Chapter 10

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fast Gift: Short-Rowed Baby Hat

I thought I'd run some links to fairly quick gifts.  It's getting very late to make gifts, but you may find yourself needing something, running out of budget, with yarn all over the house. 

Or maybe you're one of the lucky souls who is off on vacation part of this month!  Anyway, here's one and I chose for this because it's my most often-viewed project video:

Short-Rowed Baby Hat

December 9, Luke 9

Chapter 9, Luke.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Another Knitted Necklace

This is another sock yarn, black with a colored thread for one of the plies, and it's the same mylar gold thread.  These are all old leftovers - can't tell you brand names.

Knit a Necklace

Here's my knitted necklace.  I got this idea from a book cover I saw on a foreign site online; I didn't have the book, and I don't know how they made it.  I thought about it for while, thought it would be fun to figure it out, and came up with my own version.

You will need a small amount of thin yarn.  I have quite a lot of tiny balls of leftover self-striping and solid sock yarn because there is always a little bit left after I knit a pair of socks.  It's pretty, and I keep it, thinking one of these days I'll find a use for it.  I used 15 grams, about a half ounce, of a self-striping sock yarn for my necklace.  I made my necklace 36 beads long, or 30" long, a generous length.  When I wear it, it goes to the center of my breastbone.  
You will also need some kind of pretty thread or yarn to wind between the "beads."  I was going for a spacer-bead look, and I had this mylar gold colored run-along thread.  It was rather difficult to work with, but by the time I assembled my necklace, I was used to it.  Next time I do this, I think I'll go for something thicker and stronger.

You need something to fill the beads and made a bead shape.  I used marbles from Hobby Lobby (in the flower arranging section, $2.99 for two pounds of marbles.  You need to go with a neutral color, because the marbles will show through the knitting.  I purchased clear marbles.  The marbles are a little heavy.  You could reduce the weight of the necklace by using wooden or plastic beads.  My marbles are the typical size, about 5/8" or 15 mm.  I thought about stuffing the necklace with fiber fill instead, but the weight of the marbles does make it hang nicely.  I wasn't sure how I'd get the stuffing where I needed it, either.

One thing I would love to try is more than one size of bead and even some long beads.

My necklace was knitted on a Brother standard machine with the ribber.  I selected 7 needles in the middle of the bed on the main bed and 6 needles on the ribber.  Set to half pitch and the tightest tensions and did a zigzag row.  Hung a weight with a 7-weight hanger (this is only about 1" wide, and when it comes off the machine, the little tube is about 5/8" wide).  Set the machine for T4 and circular knitting.  Each bead is 11 rounds long, 22 rows on the row counter.  I had some self-striping yarn, but if you want to change colors yourself, change colors every 22 rows.  My self-striping yarn was quite lucky spacing for the project, as I got little 1" areas of a color, then black and white.  I had played with the number of needles and decided I liked the way 13 needles made the black and white areas form a diagonal design.

I did 36 "beads," 792 rows.  I had already knitted some samples to see what it would take to get a long enough necklace, and had realized that it gets shorter when you put the marbles in and finish it.  I constantly moved the weight up, and I kept an eye on the knitting to make sure the main bed needles were knitting off okay.  I quickly learned tht with steady weight on all the stitches, it knits off smoothly. The knitting went very quickly, but it will take you longer if you chang colors manually instead of using self-striping yarn.  You'd have ends to hide then, too.

When it was long enough, I took it off by cutting the thread, threading a needle, and running the thread through first the knit stitches and then the ribber (purl) stitches.  I knew I'd be drawing it up to close the tube later.

Now for the tedious part:  You gather the bottom of the tube with a needle.  Poke a marble in, slide it to the bottom.  Take the gold thread, thread the needle, run it through the stitches where the color changes above the marble, tighten it, wrap around and around (I used 2 strands and 12 wraps), then tie the thread, hide the ends, and cut the gold thread.  I used several back stitches to hide the ends.  As I mentioned earlier, my very thin cold thread was a pain, breaking frequently and curling if stretched.  Not sure I'll use it again for this purpose.

I poked in marbles one by one, used the gold thread to gather the tube above them, then wrapped with the gold thread.  When I got to the last marble (a few hours later), I gathered the stitches and used the beginning and ending yarn ends to sew the first and last "beads" together.  Then I did my usual winding with gold thread.

And here's a closeup.  I think this would make a charming gift, especially if the wearer is a knitter!  And, it was made from things I had on hand, except for the marbles.

Bond Yarn Grabbers Demonstrated at Alex's Site

Alex has a clear video showing the operation of the Bond yarn grabbers.  I have never seen these before, and I'm on my second Bond:

I enjoy Alex's site.  He is quite a prolific, talented knitter, and he shares a lot of information.  You might want to add him to your followed blogs.

December 4, Luke 4

Luke Chapter 4

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Little Knitting

I am still plugging away on the shaped Entrelac project.  I'm not going very fast.  It's holiday season, and there's a lot of other activity.

While I would love to stop experimenting and chart all the sweaters already, I'll know when the technique is good enough.  I want knitters working from my patterns to feel that the sweaters are superb, and well worth the work.  I don't want them to turn into dreaded UFOs (unfinished objects).   

These are somewhat time-consuming by machine knitting standards; each trip around the yoke with a new color takes me about 30 minutes.  Of course, I still think it's addictive to work on and see how the Entrelac forms with each round.  I sit there, happily listening to my Kindle, as I make the blocks.  They don't require tedious concentration; I can listen to a cute story and knock 'em out.

This is an adult-sized yoke, and the new transition technique has enough stitches around the bottom to allow me to pick up stitches and knit the sleeves and body upside-down.

Changing the knitting sequence to rehanging stitches and making the body later is a real improvement, in my opinion.  I have been making fair isle round yoke MK sweaters for years using the Joyce Schneider method of rehanging, and I like it.  The yoke job takes the most time, and you can even have some yokes done for future use (the yoke size doesn't change much between sizes).  Secondly, if the person is a difficult fit, you could put the body on, baste, and try it on.  As long as you leave the waste yarn on, a second try is possible. 

I have also changed the yoke slightly, modifying the bottom triangles to get a shorter, more typical Entrelac angle to the top of the triangle (but keep my transition to accommodate the much narrow gauge of the stockinette in the rest of the sweater).  Here's a picture where I've held the waste yarn down and put my camera into macro mode so you can see the improved shape of those triangles.
Thisyarn (Vanna's Choice) is still an inexpensive, readily available one, but it has a lot more spring and bounce than the Caron, and it like the way it makes the Entrelac texture stand out.  These bulky gauge ones are thick and warm anyway, so why not have as much dimension as possible?  I chose this soft rose/ivory/mouse brown color scheme for a lady's sweater.  The soft rose is a gentle surprise to keep the sweater from being boring, and the rest of this sweater is going to be the dark brown. 

The neckband pulls in a tremendous amount.  Again, it's that transition from wide Entrelac to very narrow ribbing.  I tried a looser neck ribbing tension on this one, and it goes over the head okay, but I will do a slightly bigger neck for the pattern books. 

December 3, Luke 3

Luke Chapter 3

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1, Luke 1

It's that Christmas challenge for me again, reading a chapter of Luke each day until Christmas.

Luke 1

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hello, December!

Great Idea at Machine Knitting Fun:  Lynne has a wonderful challenge for this December:  25 Days of Completion.

Each day for 25 days, she's challenging herself to work toward completing knitting projects.  What a great idea!  She mentions that she'd rather knit than finish, and this will lead her toward doing some finishing.  And she already has a couple of great project posts on her way to 25.  Go see her terrific wreath and her hats at

Let's Knit This Month:  At the last couple seminars I worked, I got on my soapbox about the importance of actually knitting.   It's easy for us to talk about knitting, shop for knitting stuff, lust after one more machine, collect machines, and flip through knitting magazines, and somehow all that can get in the way of sitting down and actually knitting!  I like to knit a little every day.  In the evening after work, I often knit for just a half hour or so. 

I come home not wanting to think too hard, so it helps me if I have some knitting already worked out and ready to do.

Let's break the habit of just talking about our hobbies or collecting supplies for our hobbies and yet not actually doing our hobbies!

Doing it Again:  Last year, I had just read a book about having a more meaningful holiday season, and took an idea out of the book - read a chapter of Luke each day from December 1 to December 25.  I ran a reminder on the blog each of the first 25 days of December along with a link to the passage from Bible Gateway.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and have adopted it as a new December ritual that really helps center me during the holiday rush.

Monday, November 28, 2011


John and I have been kidding around about a name for the Entrelac book that I am currently preparing.  Obviously, the title should include the word "Entrelac," because that's what the book is about.  I don't particularly want to call it "Shaped Entrelac" or "Round Entrelac Yoke Sweaters" because that's not very whimsical.  I want a fun name.

 I got a fair amount of teasing from John and Steven this weekend for being so obsessed with the projects.  This is about as bad as I get.  Last time I knitted and re-knitted and re-re-knitted  projects, over and over, just to get each one a little better, was the Goldilocks Challenge book, when I was determined to get the absolute most out of a non-patterning USM. 

Here's the latest test - a purple sweater (it looks blue on my monitor, but it really is Very Purple, thank you.)  I keep thinking of some way or other that the round yokes would be just a little better.  Then I change the patterns and try again.  Obsessed, crazed, perseverating behavior.  Good thing I'm not a homicidal maniac, because I would be relentless.  We are talking about calling the book "Entrelac Obsession."   I think "Blockhead" is more like it, with these little block shapes haunting my dreams, but John has vetoed that idea.  Still, if the cube fits the head...

I did have a breakthrough this weekend.  Over the years, I have been disappointed in transitions in garment patterns between plain stockinette and Entrelac.  Entrelac makes an extremely wide gauge compared to stockinette.  Typically, you get such an ugly transition that you have to hide it inside a seam or cover it with a trim.

I wanted my transition from the stockinette body to the blocky Entrelac yoke to be smooth.  I wanted it almost invisible, so smooth that even if I didn't use a contrasting color at the beginning of the round yoke but kept right on going with the same color for a zigzag effect, the way I did on the purple sweater, the body stitches would run right up to the blocks without any obvious adjustment in the number of stitches.    Here's an unabashed closeup of the purple yoke detail, showing the new transition idea.  It really does make a nice difference.

And, with this transition, you could knit the yoke and then rehang it and knit the sweater pieces downward.  With this yoke, there is one stitch at the bottom of the circle for each stitch in the body of the sweater.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shaped Entrelac - Shaping Up!

This is my crayon-colored red, purple and variegated child's sweater with the shaped Enrelac yoke.  I thought it would be fun to take a photo after each major step. 

On my monitor, the purple is looking blue, but it really is a rich, bright plum, not a blue.

Note that the sweater, before applying the yoke, has a gentle curve to the top of the front and back.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ask Diana: How Can I Short-Row on a USM?

When I do short rows, when doing the automatic wrap techinque, the machine tends to drop the first stitch. How can I avoid this?

Me, too.  I had the most terrible time getting the USM to short-row properly!  I puzzled over it, did web searches, and even phone the Bond help line.  The help line person suggested I remove the foam that acts as a sort of sponge bar to the needles wouldn't pop up so much, but I absolutely could not stand the USM without that foam. 

If I was going to write The Goldilocks Challenge and get people who never machine knitted before to go buy a USM, and then I promised to give them absolutely excellent, beautiful patterns so they could be proud of their work, then I had to have a work-around for the short-rowing dilemma.

So, I experimented with a number of ideas, and here's what I came up with:  Bring 2 needles into hold instead of one, hand-knit through the second needle and put it back in hold, and then knit across. That way the first needle is knitted before you start across and it is holding the yarn down so the next needle will knit. After knitting across, you can put that needle back in work.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ask Diana: About Crochet Edges & Mock Seed Stitch

Another good question:

I want to make a baby blanket, and I just watched a video of a bind off that leaves holes so you can crochet an edge later. How do I make the same edge when I first put the yarn on the machine so it matches at the other end of the project when I cast it off that way ? Also, do you have a good video for a Mock seed stitch with the LK 150 ? I like the look of that and thought it would be a good blanket idea since I am new to this.

If you're going to crochet, don't bother to cast off, just begin and end on waste yarn and make sure you crochet in every stitch before removing the waste yarn.  It's very easy to crochet through every stitch, and your edging options are endless.  Here's a video about this.

I don't have a video on mock seed stitch, though. I also like the looks of this stitch, too!  Generally this is done with a double-birdseye pattern where the second and fourth needle tuck two rows and then then first and third needle tuck two rows. Use plenty of weight.  If you have to hand-pick needles, that might be a fairly slow blanket.  Here's a diagram of the stitch - keep in mind that the white blocks are the stitches that tuck:

You might enjoy the Circular Swirl Baby Blanket - no patterning required for a really eye-catching blanket. This particular blanket has been popular with LK150 knitters!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ask Diana: Most helpful items to use with USM?

I got another good question the other day:

Hello Diana! I am planning on ordering the USM and could you use some help knowing the essentials i need to buy with it, some of these items are like claw waits as i think they are called and close pins. Could you supply me with a list of necessary items that would be helpful and make my knitting experience with the USM better/easier? If you could do this then that would help me greatly, thank you so much!

The thing I most wish were supplied with the Ultimate Sweater Machine is a supply of weights. I prefer machine knitting claw weights, but they aren't the only option.  You can also improvise weights.  My favorite method is to purchase fishing weights at the sporting goods store.  Hubby was drilling a hole in a fork, bending tines, and attaching a big fishing weight, which works fine, but look what Carla did for easy weights for her USM - she hung fishing weights with a bent paper clip. 

I make a cast-on rag and use that most of the time with the USM. You will quickly wear out its plastic cast-on device, if you're a prolific knitter.   Besides, the cast-on rag works whether you have just a few stitches or knitting all across the bed.
I buy a spool of Omega nylon cord from Hobby Lobby, which I use for ravel cord. It doesn't cost much and is awesome.

You can get extra elastic for the cast-on at the sewing store, but you probably won't need to. I prefer to knit my own cast-on rag.

I do like the USM intarsia carriage.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Knitted Tights Pattern at Hilary's Craft Blog

Here's a MK "unterhosen" pattern (warm tights) over on Hilary's Craft Blog!  Hat tip to Alysha in KY, who commented on my previous blog post about the bike tights.  Looks like pretty good directions, too.

Ask Diana - Could I make bike tights?

I got this question over at YouTube:

...I'm hoping I can learn to read and adjust a handknitter's pattern for bike tights. I've received a good size donation of smaller than sport weight wool yarn which works well on my machine. With our local sports shop selling them for almost $200.00 I really would like to knit myself a pair to go under the windbreaker. Will I have the skills to do this after I knit the sweater do you think or are there places I should go to learn more?

If you've got a charting device, you can make whatever interesting knitted garment you need, as long as you can find a sewing pattern for the item.  The big pattern companies - Vogue, McCalls, Butterick, and Simplicity, have many patterns that are sized for knits - that is, they are intended for stretchy fabrics.  There are also some wonderful pattern companies that do especially nice sportswear for knits, like Stretch N Sew and Kwik Sew patterns.  (As a matter of fact, I've been an avid seamstress since I was a very young teenager, and I've sewed lots of swimsuits, leotards, tights, and undies using those patterns.)  Isn't a bike tight pretty much a footless leotard bottom?  I believe I've made those, too.

Once you've got your pattern, you trace it onto the mylar sheet (leaving off the seam allowances) of a full-size charting device, follow the gauge instructions, including laundering and drying your samples, and you're off and running.  Your pattern pieces will knit up exactly the same size as the pattern pieces, and you'll seam it one stitch from the edge like anything else.

Imagine what you might make - dancers' legwarmers, hockey socks, bathrobes, skating costumes, bikinis, thermal undies, tank tops...and yes, bike tights! 

Consider also that lycra can be obtained and run along with your yarn.  Try it and see how you like the effect. 

And if you can't get a sewing pattern for them, you can always measure an old pair (or, worst case, sacrifice them by taking them apart) to get a pattern.

Don't forget to email me a photo of your finished tights!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Machines Acting Like People

I had a phone call from my health insurance company this week, United Health Care.  I was supposed to call back.

I thought it was about a prescription or something, so I phoned.  The computer answering my call figured out who I was from my phone number.  Then it proceeded to remind me that women my age should have a mammogram every one to two years and that I need to get one.  (They know how old I am.  They know a frightening amount about me.)  Then it actually asked me if I was scheduling one!  My little rebellious self thought, "What will it say if I say 'no?'" but I decided to say 'yes' so it would shut up and finish the call.  Then it asked me when!  Nervy computer!  It wanted to know if I was going to make the appointment today, tomorrow, this week, or this month.  I told it tomorrow, but I guess I lied.  I was busy today and didn't do it.

Hubby, of course, suggested I go to the UHC website and look for a place to opt out of their automated health phone calls.  Sounds like a good idea to me!  I didn't do that yet, either, though.

I am reading a humorous book on my Kindle, a Sci-Fi comedy called Hal Spacejock.  Hal is like a Han Solo, but without brains, but I am growing very fond of his robot friend, Clunk.  Clunk is the real hero of the book, pulling Hal out of a series of bonehead scrapes.

Here's something from this funny futuristic book that reminds me of my automated phone call.  A character in the book is going into his apartment building.  The scanner on the door reads his retina, fingerprint, and his body mass.  It then offers him a gym membership for only 99 credits a month!  It doesn't want to let him into his own apartment complex until he signs up.  It points out that he's been gaining weight...he finally has his thug robot (not the hero) bash the door down.

We're headed there, aren't we?

I try to embrace change as much as I can, and I enjoy technology.  But please, who wants to have a conversation with a machine, at least not until the machine is as cool as Clunk? 

Mmm, but didn't I also admit in my notes on Design-A-Knit Friday that I actually like "knit from screen," where the software tracks your position in the knitting and the automated voice tells you when to increase and decrease? 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Love & Blessings to John and Kelly

"He that findeth a wife findeth a good thing."  King Solomon

Steven (best man), Kelly (Mrs. John Sullivan), John Sullivan, Kat (maid of honor)

Pattern Quality

One of the things that hurts about losing some machine knitting magazines is the drop in quality of available patterns.

If you write for a magazine, you have an editor who sets requirements.  The editor makes sure that published patterns include things like yarn requirements, shape diagrams, abbreviation definitions, appropriate photos, type of machine, and stitch pattern diagrams.  The editor also provides something very powerful - a second set of eyes!  We all have trouble seeing our own mistakes and omissions.

Remember some of the magazines we used to be able to get (Knitwords, for one!) that had incredible directions and photos?

I have been reading some other people's self-published patterns lately that I had in my book stash (yes,  I do buy from other designers, supporting talented people as much as I can), and even trying to knit some, and I was just so disappointed that there isn't enough information to knit them.  Some didn't include the stitch pattern.  Some sound interesting, but have no photograph at all.  Some were garments, but failed to give a gauge or measurements.  One said, L, XL, XXL but didn't say how big those sizes are!  Some mention obscure yarn and don't explain what the yarn is like or tell how much to buy.

Grrr.  We have to do better than this if we want happy MKers out there.

Now, I am not unsympathetic to the difficulty of making accurate, complete patterns, because I struggle myself.  Humans make mistakes, but please, if you're publishing patterns, raise the bar a little and do the best you can, not just dash something off with a lick and a promise.

My father was a pilot.  He followed a pre-flight checklist, which is a strategy to reduce human error.  I follow something of a pre-publication checklist myself, and then my husband checks all the numbers for me.  I also ask people to test my patterns. 

Now I'm giving myself a good talking-to to get some great testers for the upcoming shaped Entrelac book.  Any volunteers out there?  Entrelac is time-consuming.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dear friends...a personal announcement

We are attending the wedding of our son John Patrick and his sweet fiance Kelly today, Sunday, November 13!

I have a lot of wonderful friends and fellow believers who keep in touch with me through this blog and, the machine knitting community.  Please take just a moment and pray for blessing for this young couple!

Wonderful Swung Rib Samples (Racked Rib) at Adventures with Machine Knitting

Check these out!  Excellent photographs, too!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ask Diana - What's the best option for getting patterns into a Brother 270?

One of the blog readers asked a great question today.  Given the opportunity to acquire a PPD, is that the best option for putting patterns into the Brother 270?

The Brother 270 is the electronic bulky.  I use one for most of my videos, because the big needles are so easy to see.

I thought I'd write about this question, because I've tried several options.

First of all, I've played with the PPD. 

  • I found it very simple and basic, easy to learn
  • It's relatively cheap
  • It pokes right into a slot in the 270
  • Some preprogrammed PPD cartridges are available
  • It works with a TV monitor so you can program your patterns
  • It's old technology
  • It's black and white, no playing with color schemes (or colourways, as they say in UK)
  • It's tedious to use compared to some of the available software
  • Stitch patterns is all it does - not shapings, or hand knit charting, or talking to other machines
Secondly, I've beeped in my own patterns from a piece of graph paper. 

  • It's free.
  • It's simple, and instructions are in the book
  • You should learn how to do it anyway
  • You can write what pattern you used right on the magazine or notes you're working from (by that I mean the memory numbers, like 901, 902, etc.)
  • Miserable for any kind of big pattern
  • Not very visual, easy to make mistakes
  • Because not visual, if you're designing, you're stuck with graph paper, or if you're eccentric like me, pieces of newspaper, old envelopes, and napkins...
You can improve this experience by using Excel for the graph paper.  Set the column width to something like 3 and the row height to something like 13 (beats me why Excel uses those numbers...) and you'll get a squatty square that is about right for making a knitting diagram.  Then use the color fill to make a pretty picture. 

The illustration here is a stitch pattern that I created quickly in Excel.

Or you could invest in DAK

  • Incredible features - color palettes, shapes, sizing, gauges
  • Cool pattern designing tools like mirror images, cut-and-paste, kaleidescope, shapes, fonts, etc.
  • Great visual interface that works on PCs - I just love to sit and doodle new stitch patterns
  • Visual interface includes a "repeats" feature, which helps when you're doing an all-over pattern to make the edges work
  • Visual interface includes a couple of views that look almost like real knitting, which greatly helps me visualize my item.
  • Visual interface allows for the squashed shape of knitted stitches, which can be a problem if you're designing on square graph paper
  • You can make screen colors to match your yarn, which is also very helpful when designing
  • I actually like "knit from screen," which talks to me and tells me when to increase and decrease.  I tend to get interrupted quite often, and it keeps my place.  Some people find the talking computer annoying, but I'll take all the help I can get!
  • Use it with almost any machine and use it with hand knitting
  • Lots of ready-made patterns include DAK format files
  • The lace tool (not a 270 item, but pertinent for other machines) is wonderful
  • If you also happen to have a Passap E6, it's great when it can be used instead of the card reader
  • Work with Paint Shop Pro and put photos in your work!
  • It's costly
  • It's not easy to learn
  • The copy protection on it is a terrific pain - you must be careful with your original disks and keep track of your receipt, serial numbers, etc., as well as be prepared to phone the distributor if it decides not to work because of the copy protection.
  • You will need a special cable for your machine.  The 270 cable is particularly unusual and expensive.  Over the years, I've purchased separate cables for five different kinds of machines.  This can't be helped, because the input on the Passap are completely different from the 270, which is completely different from say, the 930.  Each time I need a cable, that's another expense. 
In my humble opinion, DAK is worth the hassle and expense, if you will be doing a lot of pattern and garment designing.

More Cute Stitch Patterns at Rett og Vrang

Nice charts!

Happy Veterans Day - Knit for the Troops!

Celebrate Veterans Day by doing something for the young men and women who are being deployed to Afghanistan from Ft. Hood, Texas.  Or, do something for some of the soldiers you know!

Here is some information regarding this project:

1.  Join the Yahoo Group of knitters and crafters making things for the troops.

2.  Knit the Big, Fat Slippers for a soldier!

3.  Or, knit the felted variation of the Big, Fat Slippers for a soldier.

4.  Slice some fleece for quick, easy warm scarves.

5.  Knit Tom's Troop Cap and improve your circular knitting technique, while you're at it.

6.  Got a Passap E6000?  Knit Barbara's troop afghan or knit your favorite DJ afghan.

7.  Check out this hexagon afghan that would make a great soldier gift.

8.  Or, how about this pattern, the Luxury Throw, where I've got an interesting little tweak on English Rib for a fast ribber afghan on a bulky machine (yes, you can make it on the standard, but increase the stitches).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Thoughts on Felting Slippers

Here's a little update on my slipper felting project.  I'm still knitting and felting slippers - the plan is to use up the Fisherman Wool (worsted weight wool, felt-able) that I have at the house, making slippers for the troops.

This first photo is a before-and-after shot, with a freshly knitted slipper on the bottom and one in the same size after felting on top.  John put a ruler in the middle to make it easier to see how much they change. 

For these slippers in this first photo, I knitted tigher ribbed cuffs.  I realized that if I knitted the ribbed cuffs on T4 and the foot on T8 that I don't get so much flare at the cuff.  Look how much more the stockinette shrank than the ribbing! 

I decided to change the cuffs when my husband John was trying them on with me, and he didn't like the fold-down cuff as well as I did. 
You can shrink them into whatever size you want - just keep checking them as they agitate in the washing machine, because they change size pretty rapidly.  Here are two slippers knitted with the same pattern and tension - one felted more than the other.  This is "his" and "hers" - about a woman's size 6 and a man's size 11 from the same pattern.  Of course, the woman's slipper is very thick - the more you felt and shrink, the thicker the slippers get. 

I just fished two more pairs out of the washing machine.  I'm playing around with a few more sizes, trying to get a good mix for the troops.  I'm finding that they only take about 3 ounces of yarn for a pair of thick slippers.