Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beautiful Scarf at Machine Knitting Fun

Isn't this fun!

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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Easy Felted Slipper - Great for Soldiers

I had some Fisherman Wool from Michael's - in fact, I still have some.  I was thinking about warm, padded winter slippers, so I decided to do some felting.

First of all, to make a ladies' size 8 (my size; why not experiment on me?) I used the Big Fat Slipper pattern from the Goldilocks book with that Fisherman Wool, only I made them humongous!  I went to the man's size 11 slipper, and using those numbers of stitches and rows, I turned the tension 'way up to T6 for ribbing and T8 for the slipper.  Here's what I got:

If you're familiar with these slippers, they're very quickly made with a sew-as-you-go side seam.  These are ridiculously big, much bigger than the size 11 because I deliberately used such a loose tension.  They were also loose and floppy.

Now that I had my Andre the Giant slippers made, I went to our good 'ol Maytag and started felting.

I was afraid the slippers would felt closed, so I put socks inside them.  I put them in the washer on HOT to agitate and set the kitchen timer for 5 minutes.  Then I checked them.

Two rules of felting wool:  (1)  have faith, it will eventually felt, and (2) once it begins to felt, it changes rather fast, so keep checking it!

At first, there was no change at all.  The slippers were terribly floppy and shapeless.

Set the timer again, and again, checking the slippers.  At one point they looked like they would fit my husband.  I wanted them for selfish ME, so I started the washer over and kept on agitating.   When they looked about right, I squeezed all the water out of them and tried them on wet (yuck - but at least they were warm from the hot water).  A perfect fit!

The slippers shrank so much and got so thick - maybe 1/4" thick - that you can't tell they were ever knitted.  The ribbing belled out, as well.  Here are the slippers after felting:

This brand of yarn got quite hairy when it felted.  I thought about whether to give the slippers a "shave," but decided I loked the wooly, hairy look. 

The slippers can't go in the dryer, or they'll keep on felting, so I put them on a skirt hanger to dry.  

And, finally, I folded down the cuffs, which flared out in the wash.  Don't count on ribbing to draw in at all when you felt it - in fact, if you look at my first picture of the slippers, the original ribbing was quite a bit tighter than the foot.  But these are great on my feet, folded down.
What fun!  Now I'm wishing I had a second color of the Fisherman Wool so I could have goofy horizontal stripes!  Of course, I could use a felting needle and some leftover needlepoint wool and felt a design onto the toes. 

Are you knitting for the troops being deployed to Afghanistan?  These would be terrific! 

Do the Math - Round Yokes

I've worked through the shaped Entrelac techniques, and now I need to do the charting for the sweaters.  I want my upcoming book to have several sizes and several gauges.  I've been lazy, though, about starting on all the math - I typically spend a great many hours calculating, then checking and re-checking the numbers.

A round yoked sweater is a variation of the raglan sweater.   You have to shorten the area above the armhole shaping to accomodate the yoke, and then you absolutely must curve the body block to fit the yoke.  If you don't do that curve, an ugly bulge forms along where the yoke meets the body, and it will never look right:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Movie Stars - Today & Yesterday

Isn't this interesting?

I had already been blown away by the resemblance between January Jones and Gracy Kelly when I was watching Mad Men, and by the resemblance between Brad Pitt and Robert Redford in A River Runs Through It.  These others are interesting, though!

Friday, November 4, 2011

DAK 7 on Windows 7 Laptop

I do a lot of my knit designing in DAK 7 Professional.  I also have the lace tool, but don't use that as much as I thought I would, having previously taken the time to learn to create lace patterns without the tool.

My new laptop runs Windows 7 Professional.  It came with Windows 7 Home version, which I liked just fine, but I decided to upgrade so the computers I used would be about the same.  I also wanted to try the XP Mode in Windows 7 and see is good old DAK 7 would run on it.  You don't get the XP Mode in Windows 7 unless you buy the Professional version. 

You also have to fool around with installing the XP Mode and Virtual PC.  This entails a trip to, where you must follow the directions.  I must be directions-challenged today, because I actually struggled until I finally got my Windows validated and downloaded both the XP mode and the Virtual PC.  Then I installed them, rebooted, and got the familiar old XP screen, where I could install DAK.

Now I'm waiting for Irene at Knitcraft to send me a new KEY code so I can do that.

Oh, bother.  I do believe DAK is worth whatever hassle is seems to cause.  Besides, we machine knitters are tough cookies! 

I am not in love with Microsoft Windows 7 and wonder why the MS people had to change a good thing and make some of our old software not work anymore!  Do I sound like a griping old lady yet?  Any minute?  We've had Windows 7 at work for years, and it's got all sorts of features that mostly confuse us, especially security features that seem to keep you out of your own files!

DAK is just wonderful software, and I'm unaware of anything truly comparable, even though there are other knitting design products available.  Irene just told me that they have the DAK 8 in stock and are shipping it.  I had heard it was out of stock, but it's available again, so next week after my current DAK thing is done, I'm going to pack up the old disk and some money and order the new one.  Of course, I must have the new DAK!  I've been upgrading DAK since

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Home Again, and Knitting

Here's the hat, shown with the sweater that it matches.

I keep doing these, just trying to get it as good as it can be.  If I were "normal" and would knit more OPP (other people's patterns) I would get a lot more done!

This is just about the way I want it now, so it's time to start charting the other projects for the book. 

I thought the hat would make an interesting YouTube, but I had to film at a very overview, outline level - just how many stitches and squares and not a whole lot of exactly what to do, stitch by stitch.  If I put in all the usual detail, the video will be endlessly long.  The Entrelac book, which is just square Entrelac, has a video that is about two hours in length, and this would have to be longer.

Circular Swirl Baby Blanket at Machine Knitting Fun

I like this blue and lavender version of my Circular Swirl Baby Blanket: