Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Videos Today - Entrelac Introduction

I love to knit Entrelac.  It's fun, and it makes fascinating designs.  While I realize not everyone is an Entrelac nut like me, I think most people would enjoy knitting it - a lot - if they'd just give it a try. 

Now that I've demonstrated it live a few times, I've watched the reaction most knitters have - they're surprised at how easy it is.
I've got a video up today with a little project especially for people who have never tried Entrelac. 

There are two basic methods of machine knit Entrelac that I use.  There's the "no waste yarn" method which I used in "EZ Entrelac." The "no waste yarn" method uses needles in hold and stitches on a stitch holder.  After lots of experiments, I hit on the idea of using a fine gauge circular needle for a stitch holder.  This is fast, and it works so well, I wrote a pattern book to teach it.  That book has 2 hours of hi-def video with it, and I needed it all to show how to do the blocks, triangles all around, and making up of the project, which is a lined tote bag. 

Then, in the book "Wear Your Diamonds" uses another method - the waste yarn method.  This method is popular, and I use it in certain situations.  You'll love this method for very large projects that won't fit across the knitting machine, and also for knitting Entrelac without side seams (a big tube), which is basically what the circular yokes are.  The waste yarn is not the mess you might imagine - you keep recycling the pieces.
"Wear Your Diamonds" teaches shaped Entrelac, where you vary the size of the blocks to change the shape of the knitting, and it teaches a special transition from stockinette to Entrelac which conquers the gauge problem (Entrelac is super wide).  It has a cute hat project, where you learn the technique, and then you dive into the circular, round yoke pullovers. 

I re-edited the hat video, which is the simplest Entrelac project in that book, and couldn't get it down to less than 3 YouTube videos (10 minute limit). 
So, I came up with a new project.  I'm using the waste yarn method because it's the fastest to demo, and I'm just making a square pillow.  Bulky yarn.  Simple, simple, and not a huge time commitment to knit (I made two of them in three knitting sessions).  This video was short enough, under 14 minutes, to split into two brief videos.

Inspiration at Vanda's Blog

Great baby set!  Vanda is a machine knitter in Italy, and I'm watching her blog, which has nice photos of her work.

Inspiration at Knitting Up a Storm

Cute little boy's cardigan.  Interesting side closure.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ways to Improve Your Knitting: Pre-Emptive Gauge Swatches

I just read on another blog about a knitter getting the whole back of a sweater done and realizing that it's too large, that she didn't get gauge.  Haven't we all done this at least once, if not several times?  I have also knitted the entire back of a sweater only to realize that I don't like the yarn in that pattern stitch.
Knitting swatches prevents a lot of this kind of suffering.

I'm a moody knitter.  Some days I want to swatch, doodle and try out patterns and ideas, and I have no ambition for a complicated project.  Other days, locked and loaded, I'm ready to knock out my project and not much can stop me from diving in.  On those days, fiddling around with a swatch feels impossible.  I want to start already! 
On the day that the massive urge to make something hits, wouldn't it be wonderful if you had your gauge swatch ready to go?  And I mean ready - knitted, marked, laundered, 100% ready to go. 
Here's a handy trick:  When you first acquire yarn, or working with stash yarn, knit a gauge swatch and attach it to the yarn (rolling it inside the cone or tucking it inside the bag).  Then when lightning strikes and you have to knit right now, you can work from that swatch.
You will often have to knit an exploratory swatch first, just to get a tension that feels and looks good with the yarn.  Once you find that tension, use that for the swatch.  If you feel certain that you want to use a particular fair isle, tuck, or lace pattern, then use that for the swatch.  If you can't decide between two different ones, make them both.  On a new day with a fresh perspective, you'll look at the two swatches and decide what you like best. 

You don't need to make a lot of notes, since the notes are on the swatch; that is, the tension dial setting is knitted into the swatch and you know the stitches and rows because you make a 40x60 swatch unless you're working on the bulky machine. 

I've taken my swatches to club before and had experienced knitters ask how I do them, since they're marked so nicely.  If you'd like to see my swatch routine, here's the video.
Laundering changes yarn - a lot!  It changes the texture, feel, and size of the stitches, so the job isn't done until you launder your swatch the same way you'll launder the sweater.  Sometimes, since I'm swatching ahead, I'll launder several at once or run them with laundry if I'm certain the yarn is washable and won't bleed color, but usually I wash them by themselves.  Yes, I handwash fibers when appropriate and dry them flat.  (A while back, I saw a yarn I loved at a yarn shop, but the label said "dry clean only."  Another yarn had no washing instructions at all.  I am not sure I want to work with something that fragile!  Have any of you worked with a dry-clean-only yarn?)

Tuck the finished swatch, the yarn wrapper, if there is one, and a note with the stitch pattern, into the cone of yarn or the yarn bag, and when you're ready to knit, you're ready to knit!  (Note:  I purchased the smallest nearly-clear trash bags in a big box store, and I put them over my cones of yarn to keep them clean.)
Don't be surprised if having a swatch to look at motivates you to get that yarn knitted.  When the tension and stitch pattern are terrific, it's a great feeling, and such an inspiration to knit.
A few more about gauge swatches:
  • Changing the color of the same brand of yarn often changes the gauge
  • Fair isle will give a different gauge from stockinette
  • Tuck stitch will be wider and shorter than stockinette
  • Lace will usually be wider and shorter than stockinette, as well.
  • If a garment has more than one stitch pattern, two swatches are a good idea. 
  • I typically do a small swatch of the ribbing so I can figure out the tension and rows for ribbing.

Inspiration at Yet Another Canadian Artisan

Ooh.  Aah.

I'm not, and probably never will be a hand spinner, but these projects are just wonderful to look at. 


Lots of websites are inadvertently spreading terrible computer malware lately.

All my blog comments are moderated - that means I have to approve them before they will post.  I've had to delete some comments lately because they contain links, and I'm not sure the links are safe.

Don't click on any unknown links, even if emailed to you by a good friend.   If your friend's computer has the malware, it may be sending emails with the infectious link to every email address in the computer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Inspiration at Art Machines

I read somewhere that women think about fashion 80 times a day.  I scoffed at that, and then John and I went to church, where I realized I was looking at all the pretty summer dresses on the cute young women.  Let's face it, we females are weak, weak, weak for pretty colors, lovely textures, and slinky silouettes.

And that's one good reason to keep an eye on Art Machines blog out of Russia.  Anna not only runs lots of inspiring fashion ideas, she's a great machine knitter, and you can learn a lot from her.  Check out this week's offerings, summery tops that are a combination of knitting and crochet.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Inspiration at Rhythm of the Needles

Super cute socks made from odds and ends of sock yarn stash! 

I especially like this project because I always have sock yarn leftover from every pair of socks.  I have two or three plastic shoe boxes jammed with tiny balls of leftover high-quality sock yarn. 

I would just have to exercise the patience to change colors and keep track of which yarns I used in order - I'm visualizing just lining them up on the desk while I knit the first pair, then knitting with the same balls in order on the second pair. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Inspiration at Simple Knits

Lightning bolt scarf - handknit, but we could do something like this, couldn't we!

We're So Curious

We get quite a few international orders for machine knitting books and videos.  A lot of companies don't ship to certain countries because of the expensive, slow postage or the other problems that arise, but we have had a commitment to international sales from the beginning.  We charge $7.50 overseas shipping no matter how many items someone orders, and we pay the postage over that amount.

My books and videos go to wonderful places, places I dream of going.  As John and I seal a package to New Zealand, Argentina or Switzerland, I imagine getting to visit, too.

We are so curious about what our international customers experience on the other end.  How much Value Added Tax are you getting dinged in your country?  Are you having to pay customs?  Are there other fees?  How long did delivery take (we do one-day shipping, generally; it goes out the next business day)?  Does it come to your home, or do you have to make a trip to a post office or elsewhere?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cup Sleeve (Grin)

Franklin is playing with reversible, hand knitted double knitted fairisle, and I love the look of this technique (but not the doing of it).  I'd love to be able to make it on my knitting machine, but without patterning on both the main bed and ribber, this would be a difficult job (I've experimented with it).

I had to smile.  The scarf turned into a cup sleeve.  Very creative!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Every Day Discipline

I just read a book about how to learn to sing.  The author suggested you get a singing teacher and you spend about 30 minutes a day at a minimum, practicing.

As a non-singer, I was shocked!   The book says to practice, just like you would practice guitar or practice Spanish if you were learning the language.  I ddn't know singers had to practice.  I thought they were just some other, awesome species with a natural gift. 

Don't be so surprised at my reaction.  This is what ignorance looks like.  (At our house, we say that God loves stupid people - look how many He made!)

And, I read another book recently, about a musician, who described the hours spent playing scales when he was a kid.  That took me back down memory lane to my time spent pounding scales on the piano.  My son took Suzuki piano, and his teacher had amazing students.  She insisted on about 15 minutes a day, every single day, of practice (and practicing wisely).  I didn't think my kid could learn piano in so few minutes, but the secret was practicing every single day, not skipping a couple of days and then doing an hour with Mom as The Enforcer.  Fifteen minutes was easy for a little kid to do, and he didn't mind.  (He played beautifully, and went on to other instruments later.)

When you learn by doing a little every day, your mind continues to assimilate the decipher the information the rest of the day. 

There's something incredibly powerful about every day discipline.  It works in other areas of life, too; for instance, if you were trying to lose weight, you'd track your food intake daily. 

Naturally, I can't help but apply this powerful concept to machine knitting.  Perhaps you can't find a whole weekend to spend at a knitting seminar, but you could learn like crazy in a few minutes a day.

Oh, beginners, I want 30 minutes of your life, every single day!  For years, many people have treated machine knitting as if it's the sort of hobby that works well if you dust the old machine off every six months and then whip out a gorgeous jacket.  Nuh-uh.  That is another example what ignorance looks like.  You need to try to knit a little every day while you are learning.  If you don't have 30 minutes a day, how about 15 minutes, with Sundays off?

In 30 minutes, you can view and do just about any of my video lessons.  All my YouTube videos, as a matter of fact, are 10 minutes or less, and the knitting doesn't take a whole lot longer than the viewing.  In a few months, you will run out of lessons, and you'll be ready to teach other people.

Click here to get to the free video lessons:
If you want to purchase the full-screen, high-definition DVDs, go here:  http://www.dianaknits.com/ and find my products for sale.

Scrappy Slippers

After doing the Diamonds project, I have a big basket of partial skeins of all sorts of colors, and I've been using them to make slipers.

This is a man's small in maroon, black, and gray for the lining.  The gray is probably two dye-lots, but you certainly can't tell.  The slippers are not reversible; that is, they aren't designed to turn inside out and wear the gray on the outside.  You could modify the pattern to do that, but I didn't design them that way.  I made the lining smaller than the outside, and the inside increases and joinings are fast, easy, and not intended for outside viewing,.  The only part of the lining that shows is the heel area, so if you had to use up scraps, you could make the toe end of the lining out of odd colors.

I like to knit a little every day, unless, of course, I have a free day and I can knit a lot!  I had a few evenings this week when I couldn't find time or energy to knit, though.  There's still quite a bit of work to do before the slippers are in written pattern form.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday's Adventure

On Friday, John and I took the Model A to San Gabriel Park in Georgetown, Texas, where a Cub Scout day camp was finishing for the week.  The plan was to let the kids see an old-time automobile.

Unfortunately, the day camp happened at the same time as another event that most of the active Model A club members attended, so we were the only ones to bring a car.  I finally realized the one terrific thing about having a beater antique car instead of a gloriously-restored, showroom-shape one like some of our friends:  since everything on it needs work, it was okay with us for the kids to climb all over it.  We lined 'em up and let them climb onto the rumble seat, stand on the running boards, and take turns sitting in the driver's seat and passenger seat.  The kids just loved it, but eventually, we had to tell the kids that anyone who hit the "Ah-Oh-Ga" horn too long had used up his turn in the driver's seat!  The horn noise was definitely getting on our nerves.

The grownups running the camp (most of whom are volunteers in the 95 degree heat, bless them) were astonished that we'd let the kids climb on it, but actually was perfectly fine with us.  The children didn't hurt the car at all. Once we showed them, the kids were good about stepping on the step area on each rear fender and each side of the rear bumper to get up into and out of the rumble seat, but unlike adults, they'd stand high on the car and just jump down into the dirt.

I very much wanted a photo of the little guys' delighted faces as they pretended to drive, but with the bright sunlight, the cab of the car is too dark and you just can't see the kids inside very well.  Here's a shot with my John in his Scout shirt.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What I Do That's Special

Last week, I was sitting in a continuing education class, listening to a marketing and communications expert.  He was a terrific, down-to-earth, practical speaker, and he made a big point that you can walk up to a sales booth at a convention, ask the person what they have for sale, and then be shocked that they can't explain what they're selling in a few words and explain what the benefit is to you.

I was a little ahead of the group, since I'd already taken classes where they talk about your "elevator speech," that is, the few sentences that you should be able to rattle off on the spur of the moment explaining your business to a total stranger.  You should be able to show what's important and special about what you do.   I already have an "elevator speech" for my accounting job.  I can explain very quickly what I do at work.  Can you? 

I tell a complete stranger that I take care of the finances for the Scout council where I work, that I make sure the managers and board members know where we stand financially, that I ensure we have accurate financial reports and a clean audit every year, and I mention that I also take care of human resources, insurance, and computer needs at my office because we are a small nonprofit and don't have a big staff.  I love the variety and especially that I'm part of a terrific mission, Scouting.

A. Few. Sentences.  You want the 30,000 foot view, not details.  You want it to make sense to someone who is not in your field, so avoid jargon.  Since you do lots of different things on a job, talk about the important items, the ones you care deeply about; in other words, if you're an obstetrician, you'd talk about giving prenatal care, not supervising the nurse, and if you're a firefighter, you'd talk about saving lives, not polishing the fire truck.

Believe it or not, if you have something like this prepared, you WILL find opportunities to use it.  I actually gave mine in an elevator once...but I digress.

I also have a little elevator speech about why kids ought to be involved in Boy Scouts.  I have a little elevator speech about machine knitting, what the machines are and what we do.  I'm pointing out what's special, what's exceptional.  Yes, it's salesmanship, but why not spread the word about something good?  You may already have an elevator speech, and you don't even realise it.  Maybe yours is about vegetarianism, home schooling, fitness, your faith, or something else that is important to you. 

So this time, after listening to my neighbor tell me how she got started in public accounting before she got around to telling me what she does, and then my other neighbor get into the weeds about a payroll conversion and how the need for her job arose, and then my final neighbor who said he had no brief description of what he does at all, I felt fairly good about my having a coherent elevator speech.  Of course, it wasn't fair, because I had a class like this before and figured mine out.

Then, my mind wandered to my knitting teacher elevator speech, and decided that I ought to compose one:
  • I teach people to knit well, and they learn quickly.  My specialty is learning curve demolition!  I have figured out how to teach, which is not the same as knowing how to knit.
  • I reduce frustration and increase joy for knitters.
  • I design and teach patterns that are easy to do, look great, and are fun to make. 
And that is my mission, in a nutshell. 

Challenge:  Share your own "elevator speech" with us, in a brief comment!  I would just love to hear what y'all do in your day jobs, or perhaps your mission as world's greatest grandpa or super volunteer.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Quick Slipper Update

I am getting a very positive response to the no-sew lined slipper.   Yesterday at Knit Natters meeting, I demonstrated it on the spur of the moment, since my friends were curious about it since we're planning our Slippers for Soldiers knit-in.  I've been quite immersed in developing and knitting this and wasn't sure whether it would be clear for other people.  I demoed a whole lined slipper in about 30 minutes with it coming off the knitting machine assembled, and my club is enthusiastic about knitting them during the knit-in.

Today I found some time to work on the size charts.  I believe I have the math cracked, but need to knit more samples to make sure everything is good.  The tricky thing about the sizing is that the lining fits the foot, while the outer slipper is a little bigger.  My intent is to make a slipper book with an assortment of my slippers (which, considering they all go on feet, are all quite different), in plenty of sizes, and all the slippers for all three major machine gauges - standard, mid-gauge, and bulky. My customers needs patterns for their own machines.

I'm about to go take the first crack at filming the slipper knitting.  Relaxing a few minutes first with a blog post, a cool drink and nice air conditioning before I go turn on the big lights.

As for formats, I do get requests for .pdfs and ebooks.  I doubt if I'll start publishing .pdfs anytime soon, because I typically sell a spiral-bound paper booklet from 30-40 pages long, printed in full color with plenty of photos and charts, plus a DVD showing all the key techniques in hi-def video. 

Ebooks, on the other hand, are an interesting possibility, if I come across a project where it would work.  I just haven't met that project, so far.

I would also like to explore doing webinars.  It's so much fun to go to an MK seminar, but it's not accessible to everyone.  I'd like to come up with a very enjoyable virtual seminar, and maybe webinars are a way to do it.  Just mulling it over, and would love your comments.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Happy Feet

I love this new slipper design.  It actually comes off the machine finished (lined and assembled!) except for sewing in the start and finish yarn ends, and it has a neat-as-a-pin, precise look about it.  They fit well, too.

Pictured from left:  The lavender slippers are just my size (women's size 8 shoe).  They were knitted on the LK150 with Baby Bee, white inside (just leftovers).  I've calculated all 12 sizes for the mid-gauge slipper.

The brown slippers are knitted on my Brother bulky with Impeccable yarn, brown outside, variegated inside, more leftovers.  This pair fits about a man's size 10.  This will be the first choice slipper for the soldiers because it's the thickest and fastest to knit.  I have a lot of partial balls of worsted weight and have a plan to mix up the colors and use those smaller balls. 

I enjoyed knitting the standard gauge green variegated slippers, using a good self-striping sock yarn and letting the colors stripe wherever they wanted.  I thought they were especially cute, and using the wool sock yarn inside and out makes them warm even though they're a much smaller gauge.    They're going to wear well, since the sock yarn is 75% wool (superwash) and 25% nylon.  Good sock yarn costs a little more and is SO worth it!

My first slipper using this schematic was the darker pink mid-gauge ones in front.  It's a girls' size.  Of course, I also had to knit the smallest size, because baby stuff is cute simply because it's so small.  These baby ones are also mid-gauge in just a dab of pale pink yarn and white for lining.

All the slippers still need a nonstick gooping job (just a little silicone scribble on the bottoms to avoid the slip-and-slide miseries).  I also plan to film the techniques, as well, and with the sew-as-you-go toes, I'll have to show that very carefully.

Maybe with all the great slippers I've cooked up (there are a number of other ones, as well), I'll produce a slipper book in lots of gauges and sizes.  What do you think?

Quick Updates

I haven't posted in a few days.  I've been coming home each evening and working on the slipper pattern.  I finally have some very good samples and the beginnings of size charts.  I'm feeling a little time pressure on it, since we need good patterns for the upcoming "knit in" for our soldiers. 

Knit Club is tomorrow at Barbara's house in Leander.  Knit Natters is going to take a new direction.  Beginning next January, we're moving our meetings to a local library where we will have more space (but we'll have to lug machines to the library).  We're also going to elect officers and redistribute some of the workload, hopefully away from Barbara.

I don't know what my role will be.  Ever since we've had the club, I've put together a great many demonstrations and patterns, and that's what I like doing best.  It's going to be interesting to listen and learn what other people want to volunteer to do, and also to listen to the discussion about the members' preferences and the club's other changes.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Building a Slipper Pattern

I wanted a slipper pattern for our upcoming knit-in for soldiers, who say they like warm slippers best of any of the knits they've received, and I thought about it for a week or more before I started to knit.  I didn't how to get what I wanted:
  • It had to be lined and warm. 
  • It had to work with any machine, bulky, mid-gauge, or standard. 
  • It had to be fairly fast to knit.
  • I wanted to be able to teach it to our beginners fairly easily. 
  • It needs to suit either a man or a woman. 
  • I didn't want to require  ribber for this, since we have to lug everything to the church where we meet for the knit-in, and since not everybody has a ribber or likes to use a ribber.
Then Pat Tittizer sent me two slipper patterns by email for ideas.  There is the good old lined, short-rowed and gathered one, which I hadn't made in years, I tried out in purple and put on the blog with the question about who developed the pattern.  You can get that pattern in several places on the Web, it turns out, and I'm not going to republish it.

I didn't like the lumpy gathers, but it certainly is fast, warm, and easy.  You can cover them with a pom pom or crocheted trim, but that's very feminine-looking.  I reviewed all my past slipper patterns.  Over the years, I have created two mocassins, several sock-like ones, a doubled bulky one that has been on this blog, a felted one, one for the CSM, and several ribber ones.  A bunch of my old slipper patterns are here on this blog, in various places! (If you are curious, do a search for "slipper" in the search box above "Diana Natters On" in the header of the blog.)  The best warm slipper, unless everyone purchases felting wool, is the doubled one, and it's a lot of sewing.  You have to sew a decent mattress stitch for it to look great.
Then I had an idea for a no-sew, lined slipper that is finished as it comes off the machine.  I started by cutting up and taping bits of paper to work out the geometry, then knitted the unlined maroon sample.  It's okay, but I had to crochet the toe together.  Next, I knitted the variegated one on the bulky, but I thought the front of the foot looked a little messy, and I wanted it to come up higher on the foot.

I was getting close to what I wanted with the peach one, but the gauge was too loose.  I am still surprised at how much the LK150's gauge changes from one number to the next.

The winner is the pink one!  It looks neat-as-a-pin on the top of the foot, there is virtually no finishing (just ends to hide), and I decided it's worth recharting in all the different machine gauges.  Now this week, before club meets, I'll be working out the math for the sizes and knitting samples.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Whose Pattern is This?

Our club is going to have a slipper knit-in for the troops, and as I hunted for pattern ideas, a good friend sent me this pattern, which I tried out in a women's size.  It's doubled, lined, bulky weight, with lots of gathering at the top of the foot, covered by a big pom-pom (I've been at it again with the pom-pom maker).   It fits well and is extremely warm.

I know this pattern has been around for absolutely ages, but who wrote it?  I don't want to share it unless I give proper attribution and get permission.

Please help me identify the mystery slipper pattern!