Sunday, May 29, 2011


Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

Work went from frantic last week to boring this week, as we put the finishing touches on a big project.  I don't want to be one of those unenthusiastic clock-punchers waiting for the work week to end, but I was anxious for this weekend to arrive.

We've had something we absolutely had to do, and always something very time-consuming that took over half the weekend, every week for at least a month.

John and I have promised each other we will go do something fun for Memorial Day weekend.  We are normally very homebody-ish.

Central Texas is famous for having a lot of cool stuff to go and do.  Let's see, there are live music venues all around Austin and surrounding communities, including a folk music festival this weekend.  There's a World War II military display/event at Camp Mabry this weekend.  There are live plays and comedies around the area.  There's a quilt show!  There are lots of museums we haven't seen.  There's Brahms in the Park in Georgetown.  There's a Renaissance fair going on somewhere north of here.

The list of opportunities goes on and on, but we definitely want to go see a friend of mine perform with his 60s retro band at a local night spot tomorrow night.  So, we just made each other a deal - John wants to work on something with one of the cars tomorrow, and I want to knit.  We will take some time to do those things Saturday before we go to the band performance.  We'll have church Sunday, and we'll choose some of these other opportunities for later in the weekend.

Last Christmas we had a "staycation," and it was fantastic.  I'm hunkering down for a 3-day one right now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Body Shapes & Dress Forms - Good Thoughts & Illustrations at Marnie's Site

This is a deviation from my Knit Leader fitting agenda, but not too far off the track.

Read Marnie's site for good information about dress forms and fitting.

Even with her lovely slim body, she still has to adjust to get a nice fit!  Honestly, almost nobody fits standard sizes.  Everybody is longer, shorter, wider, thinner, or even sloped differently in various places. 

We all want clothes that fit, that actually fit our own highly individual bodies.  The eye evaluates the figure in comparison to the clothes, so clothing that puckers, pulls, or droops highlights negatives.  Clothing that fits beautifully gives an illusion of a better-than-real figure. 

I'm not going to get that kind of excellent fit with mushy-headed wishful thinking about what size I am; instead, I must come up with shapes that actually fit MY body.

I used to own an expensive adjustable dress form, and even set to my measurements, it wasn't quite right.  It didn't get the slant of my back right, or the width of my shoulders right.  On the other hand, the duct tape dress form is a great, cheap way to create a custom dress form for your own body.  If the form makes you want to go on a strict diet, fine; in the meantime, that's you actual shape and the form gives you a way to fit it properly.  Knit Natters did this as a club activity one day a few years ago (sorry, no pics), and you can do it with a friend or hubby to help you.  And, look how cheap it is!  Buying a dress form is expensive, but the duct tape method only requires the duct tape, an old, tight T-shirt to sacrifice for the base, and off you go.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

No Knitting This Weekend

Friday night the Austin CPA Chapter had their annual scholarship fundraiser.  We attended and had fun.  Then, on Saturday evening, my employer (Capitol Area Council, Boy Scouts of America) had one of its fundraising events, and we attended that, but as workers.  It was a long, busy evening, and went very well, but I didn't do much else yesterday.

After several days of keeping odd hours or being a little too keyed-up to sleep, I needed to slow down today.  After church, I took a long nap, and after that, I've been reading.

There goes the weekend!

I have two Butterick patterns sitting here that I ordered, thinking they'd make good knitting shapes.  They are #3030 and B5654.  B5654 is intended for knits.  #3030 is intended for woven fabrics and I'll have to be careful about it having too much ease.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Knit Leader - Tools, Essential & Helpful

If you don't have a Knit Leader for your Brother machine, you can purchase one secondhand fairly easily on eBay, from a knitting-for-sale list, or from an online dealer who carries used equipment.  Or, perhaps you have a Knit Leader but haven't used it.  I hope my information will make you pull it out and give a try.

If you're inventorying yours or considering a purchase, a complete Knit Leader should contain the following:  a manual, a set of stitch scales, a ruler, a pen, a mylar sheet, the device itself, brackets to attach to the machine and guides to hold the mylar sheet.

If you have an incomplete one, you really must have the device and brackets (first pic), the stitch scales (second pic), and the mylar sheet (top of third pic).  Those are essentials.  I suppose a handy person could make brackets in a pinch, but it would be more difficult to make the stitch scales.  You could perhaps photocopy a set, make sure the copies aren't distorted by comparing them to the originals, and then glue the copies onto cardboard.  That's a lot of work.  The stitch scales need to be true to size, because the stitch scale for your gauge needs marks that line up with the stitches in your gauge sample.

If you have some other standard machine, and a charting device was never available for it, did you know you can still use a Knit Leader?  You'll have to click it forward a row each time you knit a row, though.

Toyota machines had the Knit Tracer.  This is essentially the same as Brother, except that it had a bigger mylar sheet, which is nice.  Studio machines had the Knit Radar, which is good, as well, but different enough that I won't teach it right alongside the Brother and Toyota versions.  Hope I can go through that later.

The mylar sheet is pictured in the third photo - rolled inside a rubber band.  Perhaps you will acquire more than one mylar sheet, as I have - they come in handy if you want to leave somebody's fitted pattern on it or if you want to sandwich a tissue pattern between two mylar sheets.
I also have a few items I purchased separately, or already owned, that I always dig out to use with the Knit Leader.  These are for tracing the pattern onto the mylar sheet.  First, I have a flexible curve for drafting.  You can purchase these at office supply stores.  You bend it as much or as little as you want, following a curved line, and you can trace a nice, gradual curve.  It's about a 1/2 inch wide, so with little fiddling, it can be used to draw lines and eliminate the seam allowance.  Sewing patterns have extra space along every seam, and you don't want all that extra for knitting.

Next item down in that photo is a cheap package of fine-tip dry erase markers.  I like having lots of colors.  The Knit Leader came with a black pen, which lasted a long time, and after that, I started using Vis a Vis transparency markers.  Those markers come in colors, have a fine tip, and are water soluble so you can get the marks of the mylar.  However, as the discount stores starting carrying white boards for peoples' kitchens, they also started carrying colored dry erase markers, which are quite nice for drawing on your Knit Leader, as long as you buy the fine tip ones.  Multiple colors are great for drawing in other sizes, or pattern variations like different necklines, or just reusing the sheet without erasing the old outlines.  However, I can't have too many pictures on my sheet, or I find myself following the wrong outline...I've made that mistake.

Do not ever, ever use a permanent marker like a Sharpie.  It's hard enough to get marks off the mylar if they've been on it for a while, but permanent pen marks are a major pain.

The last item is a pattern drafting ruler from the fabric store.  I'm not sure how long I've had it - many years, anyway.  I was always interested in drawing and modifying sewing patterns, and I've nearly worn this favorite ruler out because it has such a nice curve as well as a long straight edge.  It's great for armholes, crotch curves, and just generally tracing or drawing patterns neatly.

You might want some paper for drawing or modifying patterns.  As a pattern drafting nut, I have tried all kinds of paper, including the expensive stuff marked with dots and squares.  For tracing and most pattern drafting, I prefer cheap, plain white tissue paper, the kind you use when gift-wrapping.  For an absolute favorite pattern, one where you want to make a copy that will last through many uses, I have copied the pattern onto brown kraft paper or even sturdy interfacing.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Measure Your Gauge Swatch

Those of you who find this much too basic will forgive me, I know, because I get a lot of questions about measuring the gauge swatch and need to address it.

1.  Make sure your gauge swatch is a good sample - that is, it's the same stitch pattern as you'll use for the sweater, it was blocked the same way you'll block your sweater, and it was laundered the same way you'll wash your sweater.  My acrylic teal thread lace swatch was steamed pretty thoroughly - killed - and washed in the washing machine, then tumbled dry.   I threw it in with a few kitchen towels, not because it would make a difference, but because they were in the hamper.  I obviously don't plan to baby this garment!  The whole idea here is to treat the swatch so that if it loosens or shrinks, that gets considered in the sizing.

2.  Let's use the metric system!  My international readers may be laughing at our USA awkwardness with the metric system.  I have a bunch of reasons for asking My Fellow Americans to use centimeters and millimeters to measure your gauge swatch:

  • The charting device was designed in Asia, and they used centimeters.  The mylar sheet is marked in centimeters.  The controls on the charting device are in centimeters and millimeters, and the gauge strips are in centimeters and millimeters, too.  
  • Measuring in centimeters is easier than measuring in inches, once you get used to it.  Honest.  A centimeter is a little less than a half inch, and there are 10 millimeters in each centimeter - those are the tiny marks.  Therefore, 14.5 centimeters is the same as 145 millimeters.  You move the decimal one place to get from centimeters to millimeters.  Isn't that easier than figuring out eighths of an inch or horrors, counting sixteenths?  (My husband John, the math major, is sitting here saying centipedes and millipedes, just to "bug" me.  It's always helpful to have a peanut gallery.  Thanks, Darling.)
  • Centimeters are small and millimeters are tiny, so you'll be working with a precise measurement.
  • I learned 40 years ago in high school that the US was going to the metric system any day.  We must be getting there very, very gradually.  I am drinking root beer this evening that I poured out of a 2-liter bottle, so maybe there's hope.  
  • Knitters are very intelligent and forward-thinking individuals, not to mention fond of imported yarns, which are marked with grams for weight and centimeters for gauge.  We might as well set a good example for other folks who are less adaptable.
3.  Measure BETWEEN the lines for the vertical measurement.  Get right up next to the line but don't include the line in the measurement.  This is the rows measurement.  You don't need a special ruler, just any decent metric ruler or tape.  Measure straight, along a dent between stitches.

Guess what - the measurement between the lines will vary.  Measure in several places.  More about that, later.

4.  Measure between the dots (stitch marks) for the width, or stitches measurement.  Scoot right up to the contrasting stitch but don't include it.  Bear in mind that with 5 dots on each side, you've got 5 nicely marked spots to measure.  I like to measure in several spots just in case the knitting is distorted in one area or I wasn't paying attention and read the ruler incorrectly.

Do you recall that we had 60 rows between the lines and 40 stitches between the dots?  That's what Brother wants us to measure for the Knit Leader.  This will be fairly accurate because we're not just counting a few stitches and rows but we're measuring a nice, big sample.  I was told many years ago by a wise old gal never to try to count stitches and rows one by one, but to always work from a gauge swatch.  

Your measurement will change by a millimeter or two (those tiny marks) from one location to another.  That's normal because knitting is soft and stretchy.  I tried not to distort or stretch the fabric when I measured, but my measurements in different locations still came out a little differently.  Look what I got in my measurements of the teal swatch:

I'm going to take an average or the number that comes up the most often.  I don't normally bother to calculate an average, but for my width, if I did compute the average (total the five numbers and divide by 5), I get 13.7 with my pocket calculator.  However, I do just as well saying to myself that there were more 13.7 measurements than anything else and the 14 is outside the normal range and so is the 13.5, and just use the 13.7.

On the height, I'll use 10.4 which is in the middle and occurred twice.

Remember when I asserted that one stitch or one row doesn't matter?  Well, look at your measuring tape, and see at how tiny a millimeter is.  One millimeter off in each 40 stitches is not going to matter - over the whole 200 needles, that would only be 5 millimeters difference in width.


Bunny Slippers at Spilly Jane's Blog

Cute, cute, cute...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Swatchin' and Doodlin'

I have a great deal of a crinkly teal yarn - it was given to me.  I don't exactly know what it is, except that it's a thin industrial yarn, all synthetic.  It's teal-colored, and teal is a nice color for me.

The yarn therefore, represents a nice little challenge.  What shall I knit with this particular mystery yarn?

The first step is to do some swatching.  I tried the crinkly yarn by itself at about a tension 4, and it was nice enough.  It was pretty on both sides, with a subtle boucle look and a bit of a gleam.

I thought I'd try the yarn in a thread lace (Studio knitters call it "punch lace" along with another even thinner yarn.  Some things to think about with thread lace:

1.  Both yarns have to run through the needles together, forming two-strand stitches, so they can't be terribly thick.  Therefore, thread lace is a good way to use thin stuff.

2.  The non-selected needles will have both yarns in the stitch, and the selected ones will have only one - the "thread," since you usually use thinner stuff for those stitches, which makes the fabric look lacy.

3.  Thread lace is fast since you do no extra passes of a lace carriage.  That makes it practical for large projects, like curtains.

4.  The two yarns do not have to be the same color.  I had a close match with my yarns, though.  Using contrasting colors gives quite a different effect.

5.  Thread lace can be used for texture by using two of the same yarns.

6.  You never know what you're going to get and what you will like best unless you work swatches.  And one swatch does tend to lead to another...and another...

I knitted a bunch of samples with the two yarns, and decided this yarn looked best with a tight tension (I tightened every swatch job until I got all the way down to 3) and a "killing" steam job.  I steamed the utter life out of the swatches so they lie very flat and the fabric acquires a silky drape.  Even then, I had to be careful not to overdo the heat and steam, because I didn't want to actually melt the fiber.

I do most of my knitted sweaters with a charting device, the Knit Leader, and I am venturing into doing some Knit Leader projects with my readers.  I've been wanting to make a top out of this yarn.  I'll be asking y'all who want to learn the charting device to find a yarn for a fitting sweater and to do a gauge swatch.  This teal is one I'm doing - you will be doing something else because the beauty of using a charting device is you use YOUR yarn in YOUR size project.  Your first step is going to be swatchin' and doodlin', too.  For your fitting sweater, your swatching will reveal whether the yarn you have chosen is easy to work with and hopefully, in the middle of your machine's range of thicknesses

I decided that most of these thread laces were just too open and see-through for my desired project.  They could be very nice for a lace cardigan to wear over a shell, but that wasn't what I wanted.  I wanted a top to wear by itself with slacks.  I finally used pattern #590 from Stitch World with the double height key and got this last swatch.  This photo is an extreme close-up, and it's not at all see-thru.  Killed and laundered, I still like it very much, so it's a "go."  I have so much of this yarn that I might do one of the fru-fru flowery thread laces later.

For a real garment, I need a measurable gauge swatch.  Doing a good gauge swatch, blocking it and washing and drying it, are essential steps for a successful project. Note the markings on my gauge swatch - two horizontal lines and a series of dots in a column on each side, made with contrasting yarn, to facilitate measuring for gauge, and note the 3 eyelet holes along the bottom, which indicates I used tension 3.  Also, follow this rule:   When you do a garment in an all-over stitch pattern, do the gauge swatch in the stitch pattern, too.

Over the years I incorporated tips I heard for very good gauge swatches and developed a routine, which you can see here in Lesson 28 of my beginner machine knitting videos:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Knit Natters Tomorrow - My Demo

For the Brother demo, I'm going over some basics with using the Knitleader.  That's my next blog project and book, too.  I won't drive everyone crazy trying to go over everything in one session.  Tomorrow, I think I'll do gauge swatches, measuring, and talk about getting a good pattern onto the mylar.

Barbara's doing a "reversible" Passap fair isle technique.

We're having a business meeting, too, about our upcoming seminar. 

Lovely Ideas at Art Machines: Ажур, бонжур

Don't read Russian? You can translate it with Google, and get almost decipherable English. Anyway, her pictures are just irresistible and I always go to her blog when she has a new post (I follow her on Do you follow me on Blogger?)

Art Machines: Ажур, бонжур

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tom's Slipper Socks

A note from Tom in my inbox today -


Well, you said you liked here is my latest!  Made on my Brother Bulky 260 w/ribber.  I sued the exact same pattern I sent you, except, did 10 rows of rib (and of course the heel color).

Not too shabby for my first shot at a short cuff.  LOL"

No kiddin', Tom, not too shabby at all!  Didn't these turn out great?  And, Tom charted out his own slipper sock, converting from the sock yarn gauge socks.  Tom is following the principle that by doing the math, you can convert patterns from one gauge to another.

I have a similar slipper in Goldilocks, in a number of sizes.  I have knitted worsted weight slippers in various patterns for years (even though I lived in warm climates like Texas and California) because I love to have warm feet around the house.  

Wouldn't these make great stocking stuffers?  Wouldn't they be great to knit for the troops?  The homeless?  The nursing home?  Just put non-stick stuff on the bottoms!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

John & I Attended Memory Technologies Institute Yesterday

Last Saturday I taught machine knitting at a seminar, and this Saturday, John and I attended a seminar to learn techniques to improve our memory for details, taught my Harold Mangum who is a psychologist with a lively personality and a thick Cajun accent (he is from Morgan City, Louisiana, but he lives in Dallas now). I wanted to be better at remembering names, and goody, the seminar included quite a few strategies for that.

Giving up a whole Saturday for anything doesn't come easily for us. John was lured by a  Studebaker event Lone Star Model A Club was attending, and I wanted to knit so badly my fingers were itching. The cones of yarn yell at me about how much they want to become sweaters and ask what's keeping me.  I thought about the upcoming memory seminar, and even though I was the one who attended one of Mr. Mangum's talks to a group of CPAs and signed us up, I was thinking a whole day sitting in a hotel learning something on Saturday sounded like too big an effort.

However, we had a blast. Harold Mangum has a very clever method of making it possible to remember large lists of things - you choose what you wish you could remember and he's got a way to remember it - and he's funny, and a little zany, and fully engaged with everyone in the room all day.  We had friends there, too, CPAs we know and their families.  My life has its circles, knitting and accountants and Scouts...

At lunch we walked out of the downtown hotel looking for a restaurant and wandered through the Pecan Street festival a while. There are all kinds of booths, art, t-shirts, jewelry, live music, and carnival food. John and I ate a lovely lunch at the Paradise Cafe of 6th Street (the famous Capital of Music 6th Street).

We had fun at the seminar, ran into friends there, and bought a pile of CDs and workbooks to help us practice the techniques. I wish I'd had this back when I had to memorize all sorts of information in college!  I could always learn concepts because of my curiosity about "why" but it was difficult to memorize data.  Mr. Mangum's memory methods are amazing.  At one point I was jotting down the answers to one of his exercises and put the pen down with a huge rush of satisfaction, realizing I was utterly amazed I could do it!  Oh, these are brain "stress balls" from the seminar.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Inspiration at Machine Knitting Fun

An embedded video about dyeing sock blanks with Easter egg dye.  I have my dye - I just didn't try this technique yet.  I love the idea of dyeing with food colors, a non-smelly, non-poisonous, sensible way to have fun with color:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Honey, I'm Home! ...and Follow-ups and Links

Home, unpacked, organized, and debriefed by hubby.  What a fantastic weekend it was!  Thank you, Colorado machine knitters!  I feel utterly blessed to get to travel and teach.

I was talking about Kris Basta's nice garter bars being available in several sizes that up 'til now were nearly impossible to find.   Here's the link to Kris' page:

And, I was telling the Colorado knitters about the one US-published machine knitting magazine, which you can read about here:

I challenged a couple of new knitting machine owners to just work my beginner videos, one at a time, 10 minutes of learning at a time, for about a month to become experienced knitters.  Look here:

Yes, I know I need to redo those beginner lessons in hi-def and knowing everything I know now, and they're a little funky on our old, noisy camcorder, but utterly free and I promise that if you watch one and knit one every day, you'll be a competent machine knitter when you finish the lessons.

I realized when I got home that I was behind on emails.  I'll get to you.

Also, as I watch the Knit Natters Yahoo group, it's cool to see a couple of new people whom we haven't met at our Central Texas club meetings yet.  Welcome!  If anyone out there is interested in a machine knitting club in the Austin area, look here:

And very exciting news:  I learned at seminar that a different brand of newly manufactured knitting machines that are equivalent to some of the favorite Brother models are now coming into the United States, absolutely great news, and I met the brand-new dealer in Colorado!  As soon as I get more information, I'll post it.