Friday, September 30, 2011

Reminder: Knit Natters Seminar in Central Texas

Knit Natters' MK seminar is October 7th and 8th at Crystal Falls Baptist Church in Leander, Texas. Registration is $60 for the two days, and we're limited to 35 people. Barbara Deike, Pat Tittizer Sara Tittizer and I are teaching.

We're serving breakfast and lunch.  We have fantastic door prizes ready to go, and we'll have items for sale, too, including some machines. 
Planned classes:

Passap Lock Settings - Clear explanations of the E6000 settings (Barbara).

Garter Bar Workshop - Inc, dec, flip, turn cables, make lace with garter bar on Japanese machine. (Diana)

Form Computer Workshop - Learn the Passap E6000's charting system for a child's sweater (Barbara).

Thread Lace - Lots of samples & innovative uses, Japanese machines. (Pat)

Weaving - A world of possibilities, many samples and instructions for using Japanese machine weaving (Pat).

Passap Sock - A fast, simple, sock on the E6. (Diana)

Hands-On Seaming Session - Kitchener stitch, mattress stitch, and even Smiles and Frowns. (Group of teachers)

Measuring Session - Accurate measurements and great worksheets to do individually. (Pat)

Plarn - Plastic yarn is free, fun, recycled, colorful, and it has its own unique properties and uses. (Sara and Pat)

Introduction to Spinning - Hands-on drop spindle class! Everyone gets a taste of spinning. (Sara)

Sara's Fairies - One of our club's favorite Knit Natters classes of all time.  (Sara)

To Register, send a check for $60 to Barbara Deike, 615 Deer Creek Lane,Leander, Texas 78641, and enclose a note indicating that you're registering for the seminar. Include name, contact info, how long kniting, and what machines you have/use. 

Questions?  Ask here in the comments, or email me at diana_knits "at" sbcglobal "dot" com.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Romance and Gun Oil

What does Prince Charming give his princess?  Hoppe's Elite Gun Oil, if she's a machine knitter.

Mary in Burr Ridge (Chicago suburb) recommended this to me for my knitting machines.

Dear John, my Prince,wrote it down and stopped on his way home from work and bought me some.  He went to a sporting goods store.  I understand that it isn't hard on the plastic bed machines - like my precious Passap E6000. 

I wonder what he's up to, for Pete's sake.  This weekend he fixed 3 sponge bars and cleaned two steamers.  He's really working into my good graces!

I don't write about the Passap much, because lately I've been doing so many things on the Japanese machines, but I promised to demo my Passap sock at our upcoming Austin seminar.  I needed to practice the sock and make sure I've got it sized just right for ordinary hand knitting sock yarn, and last night was my chance. 

I put some of that Hoppe's Elite Gun Oil (Mary says buy only Elite, so as not to damage the plastic).  It worked just great last night; my poor Passap has been neglected and was rather dry, but it's sliding quite nicely.  Passap will always be a little harder push because of the strippers (gizmos that squash down the knitting as you go across, ensuring stitches knit through), but the gun oil is awesome.

My little project is cool, too.  I haven't made Passap socks in years because I got into circular sock machines, but I used to, and Passap makes such an easy sock!  The pushers (patterning pegs below the needles) make the short-rowing of the heel and toe quick, and the strippers shoving the knitting down eliminate almost all weight worries.  Circular knitting is also breezy on the Passap, again, because of the strippers.  Oh, and the Decker Comb (a super stitch holder) makes short work of holding and replacing stitches instead of using waste yarn.

Passap knitting requires a different mind set, since you have a ribber in the way all the time.  You must have faith that nice knitting, which you can't see, if forming between the beds.

I'm excited about showing this to one friend in particular, who is a new Passap knitter.  And, for the sock, the console is not needed, so she may enjoy doing some knitting sans computer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Great Mid-Gauge Yarns

I have an under-used midgauge machine, and I'm wondering, what are some favorite mid-gauge yarns?  Mine is an MK-70, so it has 6 mm spacing.  Apparently mid-gauge machines range from 6-7 mm.

In particular, I want to do some medium-weight pullovers.  I'm cooking up a new pattern, really quite an interesting one.  What looks great and washes well?  I'm very fond of washable wool blends.  Anybody have a nice recommendation, say in Tamm cone yarns?  Other ideas?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Honey, Do! Clean My Jiffy Steamers

This weekend, John helped me with redoing three sponge bars on old machines, and also, with fixing up my two  Jiffy Steamers.

The Jiffy Steamer is the gadget of choice for blocking knits.  It's a standing garment steamer with a pole for holding a hanger.  Not only do I use it for knits, I use it for just about any fabric else that's wrinkled.  You throw a dress shirt on a hanger and hang it on the pole, steam it a bit, and all the wrinkles vanish. 

My iron and ironing board are usually lonesome and unneeded in the closet.  

J-2 Residential SteamerMy Jiffy Steamer has a plastic head on the end of the hose - I've heard that there is also a metal head available, but it gets extremely hot.

I managed to acquire a second steamer with the purchase of a machine a while back.  I'm going to sell one of them at the Austin seminar swap meet, if I can.  I don't need the duplicate.

John pointed out that there are cleaning and maintenance instructions at the Jiffy Steamer website.  My steamer would have been much steamier if I'd followed the simple instructions, to empty and change the water about every ten days.  I didn't do that, but John cleaned the steamer thoroughly.  With a little vinegar and patience, you will see a huge increase in the amount of steam it's putting out. 

Now that John has done his magic, the steamer is shooting out so much steam that I'll have to be careful not to oversteam my knits! 

I have also promised to behave and always use distilled water in the steamer.  And of course, never, never let it steam until it's dry.

Would the lady interested in the Singer 9000 please contact me?

I had an inquiry from someone who might like to purchase my Singer 9000 (Superba machine).  I cannot find her email - please contact me at diana_knits "at" sbcglobal "dot" net.


Awesome Article About Dyeing With Kool-Aid and Food Colors

Check this out!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Super Lazy Microwave Brownies

John asked me for brownies this evening, after our healthy meal of blackened tilapia and veggies.  He looked like he really needed brownies.  He doesn't like mix brownies, either; he likes my scratch brownies.

Here's my super-lazy scratch microwave brownie:

In a microwave-safe cooking dish, melt two squares of Baker's chocolate (1 ounce each) with 1/3 cup of butter.   Takes about 2 minutes in my microwave, which is wimpy.  If your microwave is powerful, better watch it.

While that's going on, beat 2 eggs and find the sugar, baking powder, vanilla, flour, and salt.

When the melted chocolate mixture comes out of microwave, the chocolate looks like it isn't melted but is soft.   With a spoon, beat the chocolate and butter together and make sure the chocolate is completely melted.  Then beat in a cup of sugar.  Beat in the eggs thoroughly.  Next, beat in 1/2 t vanilla, 1/4 t of baking powder, and 1/4 t of salt.  Mix thoroughly - it's good exercise, which will use up about 1/100 of the calories in a brownie.  Finally, beat in 1 cup of flour.  Add chopped nuts if you like, or if you want to be ridiculous like the Sullivans, you can add chocolate chips.

I cook it in the same dish.  Before I put it in the microwave, though, I like to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula to make it look a little better.  Give the gooey spatula to hungry hubby and he'll wait better.  Nice moment to tell him about the yarn I bought today.

It takes about five minutes to microwave it in my microwave at about 70% power, but as I said, my microwave is slow, and yours is probably faster.  I keep turning and watching the stuff.  It's done when it gets a little puffy and springs back up when poked gently.

Especially good served warm with a little ice cream.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Things The Ribber Manual Didn't Tell Ya...

I've been thinking about all the valuable bits of information that aren't necessarily in the manuals.  The manual guides you step-by-step through making ribbings, but it doesn't necessarily say WHY you must do this or that.  Here are some examples:

1.  The ribbing can easily be too loose for the garment. It might seem logical, that if my garment is on a 7 tension, my ribbing could be, say set on 5 - that is, if you are thinking of hand knitting needle sizes.  However, you really need a swatch of your ribbing before you begin, and you need to make it tighter than you'd probably expect.   Why?  The gap between the ribber and the main bed adds some distance that the yarn must travel between each knitted and purled stitch, and that distance adds to the size of the stitches.

2.  Weighting work on the ribber is quite different from weighting work on the main bed.  I might use two claw weights on a good-sized width of fabric on the main bed and all is well, because the fabric presser does a lot of the job of pulling the work down so stitches knit through.  On the ribber, though, the ribber arm doesn't have wheels and brushes, so you depend on gravity.  Get used to the idea of using more weight.

3.  It's very important to balance the comb, but isn't it a contortion getting the comb in there correctly?  Mark the center of your ribber comb with bright nail polish (why should the sock machine folks get all the nail polish uses?) and put that at zero, the center.  Put your comb in between the beds with the wire in it, bring up one side and slide the wire almost out, then slide it back in with the teeth in place between the stitches.  Whew.  Much easier!

4.  In my experience, circular knitting takes the most weight.  Keep an eye on circular knitting and make sure the stitches are knitting through. 

5.  When you added a ribber to your 200 needle machine, suddenly you had 400 needles!  That means that you can do a technique called "full needle rib" which uses every needle in a knit one, purl one configuration.  Please bear in mind that for this technique and for other techniques which have the needles closer together than the usual 4.5 millimeters that you must use much thinner yarn.

6.  Did you know that the medium comb with the brass bar can be used as a "buckle" for weighting the work when it gets too long and hits the floor?  You remove the ribber wire, insert the knitting between the brass bar and the comb so that weight will make it stick (sort of backwards - I guess I better do a video), and then hang the weights.  You can slide the comb up as you work, gathering the width of the fabric into the comb. 

7.  I talk about this in my videos, but there are certain items you'll use constantly if you add them to your ribber equipment.  Get some spare weights and some triangle weight hangers, either from a dealer or second-hand from a knitter.  Sometimes you can find a short ribber comb, and if you can't, you can usually purchase a long ribber comb and cut it into a short and a longer-than-medium comb.  I like to have spare double-eyed needles, too.

8.  Experiment with your fine knit bar!  This is a long white plastic strip (lurking in the white styrofoam packaging - I've heard of folks discarding it because they didn't even see it).  It goes between the main bed gate pegs and the bottom of the needles and is wonderful for getting the stitches to knit through.  You won't always use it, but it will often be a real help.

9.  If you carry your ribber around or have to store it, a plastic shotgun case is a fantastic, cheap solution. 

10.  Ribbers can get out of adjustment.  First of all, make sure the brackets are inserted correctly in the back of the ribber bed and also attached correctly to the main bed.  Make sure the needles match up between the beds, that is, full pitch matches and half-pitch has the needles halfway in-between each other. 

11.  Ribbers often have sponge bars, which wear out and need replaced. 

Okay, commenters, what else just isn't in the manuals and ought to be?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thank You, Chicago Machine Knitters

Thanks, Chicago knitters!  Thanks especially to Kanella, who gave up her Saturday to pick up Barbara and I at the airport and show us around Chicago, to Shirley, who hostessed the seminar in her lovely home, to Pam, who helped with many things, plus the video, to Mary, who did so much organizing and took us to the airport on Monday, and to Barbara, who shared yarn shop war stories at dinner.  Thanks to my friend Barbara, who played faithful sidekick and made this much more possible for me to do.

Even the weather smiled on us, with gorgeous sunshine on sight-seeing day and lovely drizzle for knitting weather on knitting day.  Ah, you wonder why we were so grateful to see drizzle?  We've nearly forgotten what rain looks like in Central Texas!

Also, thanks to everyone who attended the seminar, asked wonderful questions, volunteered to try some of the techniques on the machine, brought show-and-tell, made purchases, brought food, set up, cleaned up, and took us for wonderful meals.  Special kudos to the maker of the pumpkin cheesecake squares, the chocolate chip cookie baker, and the brownie bringer!

While I'm at it, thank you to the people who are dues-paying members to this wonderful organization and make live seminars with guest teachers possible.  Just imagine, a city with three machine knitting groups (not counting their circular sock knitters) and even active dealers!  Gosh, if you have organizations in your city, you need to join up and soak up all the wonderful resources.

Inspiration - Ribbed Pullover at Marnie's Blog

Nice pattern, huh?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Yes! A wonderful fix at Adventures With Hand and Machine Knitting

Look how Phil used grafting to add length to a project.  I have done this, added or taken out length.  It's not ideal, but the project is saved, and properly grafted seams won't show at all.

Great photos, too -


We're in Chicago today - some sightseeing pictures from our lovely day looking around Chicago (in perfect, gorgeous weather!)

Amusement area near Navy Pier
Add caption
View from Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier

Barbara Deike, Diana Sullivan in Ferris Wheel

Residential building near Navy Pier (where Oprah used to live)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Be a Joiner

It's difficult to describe how great it is to belong to a machine knitting club.  Our club, Knit Natters, met yesterday, and we had a dozen women.  We're planning a seminar for next month ($30 for two days, about 8 classes (the ones our members wanted the most), four teachers, lots of door prizes, good food, and fun is assured).

Knitters are very nice people, at almost every club beginners are welcome, and between inspiring each other with great projects, having demonstrations, and talking about our knitting, we are all constantly learning.  If you have a MK guild near you, go ahead and join up, even if you think you're not a "joiner."  You may find that hangin' out with knitters is a joy, as I do.

Speaking of joining, there are some fantastic resources on the internet for people who want to learn machine knitting.  Here are some of my favorite Yahoo Groups:

Knitting Machines - huge group, super helpful people, great discussions.  All machines welcome.

Knitting For Sale - one of the best places ever to buy and sell machine knitting items.

Design-A-Knit Link - If you have this software, you need this group.

For Our Troops - Join up and help us knit for the soldiers.

Knit Natters - Knitters in Central Texas

Passap Knits - Passap knitting machines are different, and I love the discussion on this big group. 

MK-70 - A group for folks who own this unusual folding Studio machine.

Incredible Sweater Machine Club - for Bond users.

Brother Knitting Machine List - for Brother discussion.

Sock Knitting Machine Friends - Very cheerful and chatty CSM group, plenty of info on the NZAK.

Sock Knitting Machines - Oriented more toward antique CSMs, also a great group.

LK-150 - For users of the Studio LK 150.

There are lots more groups - I have just listed some of the ones that I like or are fairly high-volume.  If you go to and search for your make and model of machine or your specific interest, you will probably find it, and find help.  A lot of local clubs have Yahoo groups, so look for your area.

Please bear in mind that each group makes its own rules.  Some groups do not allow selling or announcements, while some encourage that sort of thing.  Some groups don't allow off-topic chat.  Read the rules before you dive in and you'll be a good neighbor. 

This is not to even mention Facebook or Ravelry.  Maybe another day...

UPDATE - I got a note from the DFW group, and they've switched to a Ravelry Group.  Here's her note:

Hi Diana,

S.D. here, I'm the new President of the Dallas Hand knitters Guild 2011/2012. We are no longer using Yahoo Groups and have moved on to using the Ravelry Forums only. We will be using Mailchip as our new form of mass email communications. If you would like to be added to our email list, please let me know and I will add you, in the mean time, please feel free to join our Ravelry Group to keep up to date with our goings on!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

All Discouragement Is From the Devil

I think I picked up that saying in a Catherine Marshall book.  Seems true to me.

After two endless days, the trip to Dallas and back on Wednesday and the workday plus work-on-the-network evening, I was pretty darn tired.  The network modification went well, and I finally got a good rest Thursday night and was rarin' to go Friday morning.  I thought I'd get some real headway on the annual budget work, but Friday I didn't have enough budgets from my colleagues to get them compiled.

Our Scout council was hit by the Texas wildfires.  Some of the staff had been at camp fighting fires, not sitting around doing budgets.  About half of the vegetation at our largest property burned away, but fortunately, there was no loss of life or burned-down structures. 

The trees will grow back.  People are collecting donations to help folks burned out of their homes. Worthwhile things are often difficult, frustrating, or slow to accomplish.  For instance, Scouting is a wonderful program, but it takes tremendous amounts of labor (mostly volunteer) to look after all those children and teenagers and guide them through personal growth.

Don't let my co-workers in on this, but I know the bbudget book isn't the most important thing in the world. It will get done, too.  Friday held a series of small frustrations for me.  I made little progress, had to keep stopping to deal with other things, tried not to be too grouchy, and packed up as much as I could to bring home. 

Everything feels better on a fresh new Saturday.  We're having Knit Natters later today, and I'm demonstrating the new slipper.  Have you made one yet?  This really is a nice, squashy warm slipper, and it's up in video.  Maybe I can get some of our local club intereted in this pattern for the troop knitting.
I noticed we are still getting people joining the new group for troop knitting. 

After that, I'm rearranging the Chicago handouts.  I need to study the list and see how much I can cover during class and what's the best order.  You know, you put up a flat bed machine and do the flat stuff (garter bar, lace) and move to a ribbed machine, maybe after lunch, and do that stuff in a logical order.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Updates...Sometimes Ya Don't Knit Much

I'm still in madly busy mode, and it's going to go on a little longer.

I never thought I'd turn into this person, who yesterday, rushed out of the house around 5:15 a.m. to go to the airport, fly to Dallas, go to a TSCPA meeting during the day, and fly back.   We landed in Austin at about 5:15 p.m., so I drove home in rush hour traffic, got in about 6:30, walked my dog, then threw a frozen pizza in the oven, and the doorbell rang.  It was our new neighbor and her adorable middle-school-aged daughter.  I visited with them a while.  Then John turned up, they needed to get on their way, the oven beeped, we downed the pizza, and I returned Greta's phone call about her knitting ideas.  She's trying various Stitch World patterns, doing traveling edge lace scarves...wonder how it's going.  She promised to bring great show-and-tell items to club this weekend.

 It was a long day, and about all I accomplished in the evening was to test and sort out some DVDs and crash.

I'd like to play with Stitch World patterns myself!  Soon.

And today was crazy, too.  I am behind on budgets at work, and even when I'm not behind on them, that project is always a little overwhelming.  Today we had a board meeting.  Our board meetings are terrific, since we have hard-working, enthusiastic volunteers and the meetings are tightly scheduled, organized, and interesting.  I sit there just feeling lucky to be part of it.  Our properties chair announced that about 2500-3000 acres burned at Griffith League Ranch, one of our Scout camps, and everyone was relieved that there was no loss of lives, injuries, or losses of structures.  A Scout leader spoke at this meeting about his experience performing lifesaving first aid on a pedestrian who was hit and dragged by a cement truck.  Some fired-up young Scouters were selling popcorn.  

After the meeting, I went back to my budgets, which are just big piles of spreadsheets.  I'm trying to get everyone to turn in their pieces and then I aggregate all of it and see how far we are from getting the ends to meet.  Then the management team meets a couple of times and make changes until we have a budget that works.

I stayed after hours at work to have some changes made to the firewall and network, so another long day.  This was pretty cool, though - our wireless guests, who are in the building just to use the conference room, will have their own network that doesn't touch our corporate network.  It give them internet access and gives us good security.  We also had to increase the number of devices our network will handle because our new facility is so big. 

John and I ate the other half of the pizza for supper tonight, and then I got to kick back and putter for a while.  We normally don't eat junk like that - I normally cook at least simple meals. 

During all this running around, especially while driving my car, I "read" The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado.  Mostly, I listened to it while sitting in traffic. This is a free Kindle book right now - what a treat!  Nobody writes like he does.

Now I'm working on getting the Chicago handouts ready to go.  That seminar, weekend after next, will feel like no time at all from now.  Mary sent me their survey data, and that will show me what to include in the schedule.  Their choices will be fun.  I make a booklet with written instructions so seminar attenders can relax and pay attention to the demo instead of having to take notes frantically. 

This Saturday, Knit Natters meets.  We are having another planning discussion about the upcoming seminar in October.  If anybody wants to go, they need to turn in money and get registered!  I've got a demo ready for club, a Brother demo. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Replaced my laptop!

I bought a Sony Vaio on sale at Fry's last night, and blew the savings on the 3-year warranty.  I'm thrifty and don't usually buy warranties, but laptops are an exception.  If you ever worked inside a laptop, you know why laptops break more often than many other electronic devices. The delicate miniature components are crowded, with little room for cooling air flow, and they get carried around.

My old Compaq laptop was positively elderly, and I had a Dell Mini 10 network that was fairly old, too.  They were both quite good, really, and both are reimaged now and ready for a new purpose in life.  Steven said he wants the old Compaq for school. 

I haven't decided whether I can part with the Mini 10.  That itsy-bitsy netbook was really feature-laden and so small it could be dropped in one of my bigger purses.  It's S L O W, but it would do almost anything I needed as long as I wasn't in a hurry.  I've traveled with it often.  I was careful with it, and it's in nearly perfect shape.  I just reimaged it, in fact, it's sitting here installing a zillion updates right now onto its new, clean operating system.

When a computer gets to be a couple years old, it will almost always benefit from being re-imaged, that is, you save items you'll need later, reformat the hard disk, reinstall all the software and replace your files.  I don't recommend this painstaking process to amateurs, but it can breathe new life and even years into an old computer.  I've gotten that done for the old Compaq laptop and the Dell Mini.

So, here's a photo of my new Sony.  They all look alike, don't they?  Still, I am excited because this baby has really good stuff under the hood that will help me get more work done.  I am enjoying the speed! 

I often hear the prejudice that older people can't cope with computers, but I appreciate them so much, after years of dealing with typewriters, carbon paper, index cards, library research, letter writing, old-fashioned film developing and all that outdated stuff.  

Now that my office move and vacation are over, I plan to get back to all old tricks, especially the pile of knitting ideas infesting my brain.  You can't get rid of these things unless you knit them, and then you have to get them just right and maybe teach someone else how to do it!