Monday, February 28, 2011

Inspiration at Art Machines

Nice machine knitted hat & scarf over at

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pics from Muriel in UK

 When Muriel sent me these pictures, I commented on the lovely periwinkle blue yarn in the scarf.  Muriel replied that she used two strands of sport weight 4-ply to get what we call worsted weight or DK weight.

This is something I didn't talk about at all in the blog posts about the bulky projects, but you can ply some other yarns to get your worsted weight materials.  So many of us MKers have stashes of skinny yarns, which could be plied-up to make these bulky projects.
It seems like we always need gifts for babies, and here's a photo of a Circular Swirl Baby Blanket Muriel knitted.

Needing a spot to photograph the baby blanket, I've photographed these on the floor, too...have any of y'all made one into a rug?  If I come across the right yarn, I'll try it one of these days!  I have a handknitted rug under my CSM...a photo for another day, I guess.

Okay, better run, I'm getting too glued to my computer and chattin' with my friends...happy Saturday, knitters, let's knit something!

Non-Knitting Post: Diana Buys a Western Purse

Ha - a non-knitting-related post: We were out with my sister, her hubby and darling little girl at the western wear shop, and I splurged.

I don't much like to shop. I don't care much about spending money, either; I drive a ten-year-old car and would truly be disappointed if anything happened to it and I had to get used to a new one.  Most of my shopping, other than groceries and knitting supplies, happens because of John persuading me to go. I used to like to shop and he exercised patience, but now it seems he likes to shop and I exercise my amazement.

For instance, John will decide I'm looking a bit fashion-frowsy (come on, I'm not young and I'm not thin, plus, you know, I'm in the glamorous field of accounting and the glamorous hobby of knitting.). He'll take me to a nice department store using the excuse that they're having a sale, and I watch in complete astonishment as this man I've been married to 36 years proceeds to (1) guide me over to women's clothing and away from men's shoes or whatever ought to be more interesting for him; (2) make friends with at least one sales clerk, perhaps remembering her name from last time; (3) suggest items to me I wouldn't have tried on myself, some of which are quite successful; (4) actually ask to see things I've tried on; (4) find out from the sales clerk how the markdown routine works when things are getting a bit stale; and (5) run for alternate sizes.

How did this happen?  My husband became better to shop with than a girlfriend!  He's almost on par with my late mother, who could see something on a hanger and know that it would fit me and look great.

So, we were in the Shepler's Western Wear shop - the GIANT one near 290 and IH35.  We especially like this shop because John has discovered the joyous comfort of Lucchese boots, and Shepler's has a great selection.  Karen's Anna was trying on blingy belts, which I didn't even know existed but are covered with rhinestones and absolutely adorable on a stringbean preteen with Alice-in-Wonderland hair and long skinny bluejeans. She looked absolutely adorable in a cowboy hat, as well, but they didn't think it would actually get worn in Los Angeles, once Anna got home and noticed that nobody else was wearing them.  I had to take advantage of the visit by having a look around, and I spotted a display of western purses. Who knew there were western purses?

Look what I found, photographed hanging on my front door knob, which means, of course, that I took the plunge and bought it?

This purse, from American West, whose tagline is "leather for a lifetime," is very sturdy, and oh, I do appreciate a sturdy, real leather purse.  The top is a stitched-on layer, it all looks hand-tooled, and the flowers are a number of different colors in reverse-appliqued leather. As an "autumn," I wear a lot of green and brown, so it's in my color sweet spot.  It has a tiny chain with a heart-shaped padlock, lots of pockets, is a great size, and has a zip close across the top.  I almost let it get away because it was not cheap (not ridiculous, but not cheap, either), but John encouraged me to splurge.  Before I could change my mind, he was at the cash register with it.  It was a good decision - if I hadn't, I'd be thinking about it and going back over there to get it.

Friday, February 25, 2011


My friend (and honorary sister) Barbara is a Passap-fist.  She is Passap-fying my Beautiful Ribber Scarves.

She's been doing charts and demonstrations of this at Knit Natters meetings.  She even gave me these two samples!

First photo is her English Rib scarf in an interesting variegated cone yarn.

I put my pocket camera on "macro" and took this second, a closeup of the half fisherman (aka English Rib) ribbing.  It know it isn't well-focused, but I'll get the hang of it.  I tried it several times, and I had to hold the camera only a couple inches from the item to get it to focus in macro mode.  Maybe I should actually read the camera manual...

I used to be a decent hobby photographer with a professional SLR film camera and fancy bayonet-mount lenses. Now I'm just Miss Point 'n Click using a little pocket camera I keep in my purse.  It's with me every day, ready to go! I often use it to take pictures of people and places, but sometimes, if I see a sweater that fascinates me, I snap it.  I did this in a store once, and the kids thought I was incredibly tacky.  I never did copy that sweater, which would have looked awful on me, but every so often I look at the photo and appreciate the workmanship.  A pocket camera is a nice knitter's tool.

Last picture, and my fave of Barbara's latest Passap-fication efforts:  the yellow scarf is the 1x1 tucked ribbing.  This is a lovely soft, bouncy stitch.

Inspiration at My Machine Knitting Patterns: Mitred Square Blanket

My Machine Knitting Patterns: Mitred Square Blanket

Monday, February 21, 2011

Taking a Break & Fighting Burnout

I spent the weekend with my sister Karen and her family. They were here for a hockey tournament, and we all watched our lovely nephew play several games. This was a blast from the past - we were watching games at the same rink where my son played from when he was a little boy on through high school, and we were hanging out with relatives from far away with whom we share our long-agos.

This meant that I didn't work on the new book all weekend, other than putting up that mattress stitch video I had done.

Yup, I felt a little guilty for not making progress on the book, but I was also starting to feel tired and burned out with some of the knitting blogger/teacher/writer role. I'm in a very busy time at work, and somehow I don't have much energy at the end of the day to work on the knitting stuff.

I have worked at the knitting projects like a second job a great many hours every week for over a year. I generally get a big kick out of the correspondence, for instance, just this last few days, one of my emailers got a steal of a deal on a lovely machine and an experienced knitter wrote to say that I helped her master a technique. I get other emails that are discouraging, but I do my best to help and try to be helpful and patient. Sometimes I have to say "no." There are things I just don't have the time and resources to do, and there are problems out of my control. I've put myself out there, folks, so please give me the benefit of the doubt.

There's an art to learning what to ignore in interpersonal relations. I've worked in business all my life, supervised lots of people, and observed some wonderful managers. The best ones are fantastic at ignoring what they ought to ignore and focusing on what's important. For instance, you have an employee who does marvelous work and meets deadlines but you hate his grooming. Do you browbeat him over his appearance when he doesn't deal with customers? Or do you ignore the weakness or difference and take advantage of his strengths?

When it comes to dealing with people, it sure is powerful to ignore annoyances. Think of the power of this in marriage - For instance, my sweetie can fix almost anything. That's the good side of the coin. What's the bad side? He keeps every spring, plug, screw, and gizzy-watchit that might be useful someday for fixing something. I try to ignore the collected junk and enjoy all the wonderful repairs.

I have President's Day off, and I left things caught-up at work Friday. John encouraged me (he's working today) to break away from the book and catch up some other knitting biz stuff, but I do hope to get a little done on the book today.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Video - Mattress Stitch

Great finishing is important, and for the new book, "The Goldilocks Challenge," it's critical.  The projects are made with worsted weight yarn, and if you're working in a big gauge like that, every stitch shows.  And how about the crazy challenge of a tiny sweater with big stitches?

Besides, I want all my readers to finish fantastically well, pick up blue ribbons at fairs, and for your friends to ask how you learned that!

With that vision, I worked hard this week to rewrite and redraw diagrams for Kitchener and mattress seams to go in the book.

The mattress stitch diagrams were the most difficult - I hate almost all the diagrams I have seen.  There are so many threads going this way and that way that they're incomprehensible!  However, mattress stitch is so easy once you master it that I want to be able to teach it without you sitting right here.  I could only learn mattress stitch from someone showing me, because the diagrams were just too difficult.  I think I finally made good diagrams and good instructions for the book.

In this baby sweater picture, that's a mattress stitch attaching the front button band to the fronts, and a mattress stitch for the raglan seam.  On the raglan seams, you match up the decreases to make those pretty little cable effects (that's a double-decrease like they use so often on commercial sweaters).  On the button band, you just have to make sure you're following along the same vertical column of stitches on the button band and the same straight column on the sweater.

The second shot shows the sleeve seam.  The sleeve is made from the cuff up, from narrow to wider, and this mattress stitch  has increases that match up instead of decreases.

Why not indulge yourself in a "seminar experience" from home?  At my seminars, I like to pass out samples and have everyone practice mattress stitch.

Start by knitting two samples just for practicing mattress stitch.  I like to do about 20 stitches wide and about 20 rows long, with waste yarn at the beginning and the end.  I knit the samples on my bulky machine with worsted weight yarn, but you can do them on your standard or mid-gauge, whatever you have.  Next, I steam the samples so they lie fairly flat - you'll just have an easier time sewing with flat samples.  Get a length of yarn and a tapestry needle and follow along on the new video:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Click! A Small Big Improvement in Your Machine Knitting

When I first learned to machine knit, I knitted very fast.  I was excited.  I was fascinated at how fast the machine produced knitted fabric.

Well, sort of.

That is, I pushed the carriage very fast until something went wrong.  Something went wrong quite often.  I got edge loops, jams, weights on feet, you name it.  My knitting was also uneven.

Then I learned two small tips that made big improvements.
  1. Push the carriage s l o w l y.  Oh, not crawlingly slow, just reasonably slow.  You're looking for a calm, patient frame of mind.  Repeat after me: "I am not a fast knitter. I don't make a 7-minute anything.  I am a good knitter."  
  2. Stop at the click.  Almost all machines make an audible clicking sound when you have pushed far enough.  Stop there.  It's a short distance past the needles.  Listening for this will help with speed, tension and edge problems.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Baby Sweater Samples for Upcoming Book

I went from thinking I might not be satisfied with a worsted weight baby sweater to having a nice, basic pattern that will make a great little gift sweater for the Goldilocks Challenge book.  These sweaters take only one skein of yarn!

You could make a nice gift set with the blanket, the bootie, the tam, and the sweater.

 I have a whole pile of sample baby sweaters knitted for the upcoming book.  Several of them need buttons.  It's always fun to shop for buttons for baby sweaters - there are usually unusual, cute buttons for children that will really dress up the sweaters.

I did two types of buttonholes, both very, very easy to do.  One takes about a 5/8" button, and the other a smaller button.  I just make the sweater first and then take it to the fabric store to choose buttons.  I sew the buttons on very sturdily so they don't come off.

I finally decided on a raglan cardigan in several sizes.  The green one is a drop shoulder with cute fish buttons, but I don't like it quite as well as the raglan.  The pink one is assembled from scraps - I didn't have a full ball of either yarn but got a newborn sweater out of it.  I knitted the band and didn't have enough yarn, so I ripped the band out and knitted a narrower band.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


This is the view from my front door Friday morning.

Austin got two inches of snow.  While this probably sounds like nothing, less than nothing, to my readers in so many part of the world, Austin only gets visible snow once every few years, and I've never seen this much snow in our neighborhood!  Austin and its drivers can't cope with snow.  We don't have snow plows, or snow tires, or chains, or cold weather driving skills, or enough sand trucks, and our freeways have lots of bridges.  In fact, the freeway I take to work each day is mostly elevated and terribly icy in bad weather.

I figured the forecast of snow was probably another non-starter, with a few blowy flakes that wouldn't even interfere with driving.  However, this was snow made a slippery icy mass on the roads, shutting down the school district, my office, and most ambitions for the day.  Here's a shot of my car, covered.

I knitted. I am knitting again today, after re- re- re-charting the baby sweater for my new book  and setting aside yet another slightly unsatisfactory sample.  I sewed buttons on the rejected sweaters, which are pretty cute and will work for my friend's baby charity baskets - they just aren't quite what I had in mind for the book.