Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cute, Cute Baby Stuff at Marzipan

Lately, I haven't put a lot of links up to other blogs.  I've looked but didn't see a whole lot of things I wanted to link.

Today, however, here's something really cute:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Knit Leader Project

I am just beginning a project with my Knit Leader.  I am going to try to create the Knit Leader course I've been threatening to do for ages.

Here's the big idea with Knit Leaders:  you draw and follow a pattern the same size as the finished knitting.  You can use the same pattern for different yarns, gauges, and machines.  Yes, sewing patterns will work!  You can go to the fabric store and flip through all the stylish patterns (go with "sized for knits") and have a great time.  You can purchase sewing patterns for men, women, children, babies, and even crafts, and they'll work fine.  Since you're tracing, you can purchase multi-size patterns and not have to cut them apart, making it easy to use them for several people.  Trace the stitching line, though, leaving off the seam allowance.

Truthfully, most of the patterns I have followed on my Knit Leader, I simply drafted myself.  For a Knit Leader course, however, I will use a commercial sewing pattern.

So I dug out my several mylar sheets and started cleaning them.  I have purchased several Knit Leaders on the cheap over the years.  They are readily available and a wonderful investment to help you make knits that fit.  As long as you follow all the steps, the Knit Leader is almost foolproof. 

Even if you use a wipe-off marker, the mylar sheets do tend to get a little stained.  Most of my sheets were marked in water-soluble marker, which came off easily but left some staining, faint lines showing where they were marked, which was somewhat alleviated with rubbing alcohol.  These faint lines aren't going to be a problem, because the new lines will be strong and visible. 

One sheet, disgracefully, had some permanent marker stains on it, and I still was able to get most of them off with alcohol on a paper towel.  John and I played with different cleaning chemicals around the house on some of the stains.  Some of the things we tried (so you don't have to) were nail polish remover, window cleaner, laundry stain remover, mechanic's hand cleaner, paint thinner, penetrating oil, Goof Off, and hair spray.  Nothing worked better than the rubbing alcohol.

My favorite mylar sheet, which unlike the used ones I purchased, I had marked myself for my size, got a good cleaning, too.  On a single sheet, using different colors, I had a long sleeve, a short sleeve, a round neck, square neck, and V-neck, all of which I know fit me because I still wear the sweaters!  I made quite a few tops with that "master pattern."  The sheet had gotten messy, though, and I am ready to redo it, so I wiped it off, too.

I also have knitted quite a few tops with Design A Knit.  DAK is wonderful, but quite expensive, and really, the KnitLeader has an edge because it's a full-sized picture of what you're going to knit.  You can lay a favorite sweater on the mylar pattern and check the width and length.  You can compare your first knitted piece to the pattern and see if you're on track for a good fit right away.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Two Questions, Today, Were Almost the Same

I had two people write today, asking about buying a first machine.  I wrote each person back, and then thought it would make a blog post.

One guy was asking about the Studio LK150, which is a plastic bed, Japanese machine, and a lady was sking about a machine particularly for knitting fashions.  One person specifically asked about doing this inexpensively.
My two favorite brands for starting out are Silver Reed (aka Studio and Singer) and Brother (aka Knitking).  When I say “aka” I mean an identical machine was sold with a different name on it. 
Are you on a very limited budget?  These machines are widely available used for quite reasonable prices, but it’s best to avoid shipping them. 

Some of my favorite models:


If you want punch cards, 890 series.  The 820 and 830 are pretty old, back to early 70s.  The 891 etc. are much newer and have more features.

If you want electronics, any 900 series in good order:  910, 930, 940, 950, 965, 965i, 970.  My favorites in this group are 930, 940, 965 & 965i.  970 is a nice machine, but harder to learn and very expensive, and the 910 is getting a little old.  I am continually astonished by how well-built Japanese knitting machines were and how long they last, but I like to see people get something from the 90s or newer.

Silver Reed
If you can afford a new machine, these are being imported and available from dealers!

LK150, if you want mid-gauge non-patterning (and, it’s relatively portable)

Any of their electronic machines – I have two of those, myself.  Both are older models and very nice.

If you want punch cards, the 700 is a nice machine. 
I'd urge you, with either brand, to stay away from the really old models with a lot less features, since prices are so reasonable. 

You'll need to decide what gauge to buy.  The bulky machines are especially good for jackets and blankets.  I like the standard gauge machines myself for fashion, but usually teach beginners on the bulky machines because they’re so easy to see.  Most knitters end up with both gauges, and some of us have mid-gauge machines as well.

Machines don’t ship well.  I’ve seen some terrible damage from dropping.  You can probably find a machine within driving distance.  My husband John runs an RSS feed search for any knitting machine on Criaigslist, and he gets an email whenever there’s one for sale in our area. 
Also, if you are near a knit club, there’s nearly always someone in the group with a machine to sell.  They’re either downsizing or upgrading or have collected too many.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What a Machine Knitting Guild Can Do!

Many machine knitting clubs have dwindled away to only a few members, or even shut down, as older members had health and transportation problems, and new knitters struggled to learn these amazing machines, which aren't quite like anything else you operate and take a little time to learn. 

The San Diego Machine Knitting Guild, which is bigger than your average club, has a number of impressive programs going on that are a tremendous boost to the craft in their community.  While your little club, or my little club, might not be able to carry out all these great ideas, maybe one or two of these would really work for you.

1.  Like most thriving clubs, they have officers, bylaws and meetings.  At some point, you  just can't be the Lone Ranger and keep a club going.

2.  Also like most thriving clubs, they have a good, central meeting place.  In their case it's a public meeting facility, but other clubs use churches and library meeting rooms.  Here in our area, when we needed a new meeting place, we were pleasantly surprised that we DID have options once we made some phone calls. 

3.  They demonstrate at their local fair for a couple weeks every year.  This is a big job, but they've been doing this a while and have it down cold, with a notebook of patterns that are easy enough to make with people watching, a schedule to divide the work, and an all-around can-do approach.  Not only do they recruit new knitters at the fair, some of the people enjoy working the fair more than any other club activity.

4.  Two members staff an adult extension classroom program with a weekly morning and weekly evening class that accommodates both beginners and more advanced knitters.   If some talented person in your guild is interested in doing this, it can't hurt to check with local colleges.

5.  One club member "redistributes" machines - that is, she picks up machines, ribbers, stands and accessories from members who are upgrading, downsizing, or just not knitting any more and she gets them into new homes.  She sells some items and gives others away, according to the situation. 

6.  They are lucky enough to have a couple of members in the business who procure tools and accessories as needed.

7.  They are also very fortunate to have a couple of guys who do repairs. 

8.  The club's charity coordinator collects and distributes items for their chosen charities. 

9.  Several of them enter items in the fair each year.

10.  The club absolutely welcomes and assists beginners. 

The San Diego club doesn't do a lot of "knit ins," but they do regular seminars and have demonstrations at each meeting. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

New Video Today - Set-In Sleeve Knitted Upside Down

I'm trying to get a technique video up each month.  February's video shows how to knit a set-in sleeve upside-down from the armhole.  This makes a very nice seam between the sleeve and the armhole, a seam that can be difficult to sew neatly.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Notes on the San Diego Seminar

I taught a two-day seminar in San Diego last weekend.  I'd like to paint a picture for those of you who don't typically attend seminars,

The Saturday began at 9:00 a.m.  I started out with a quick cast-on and then showed two bind-offs that look EXACTLY like hand-knitters' bind-offs. While I won't say that other commonly used bind-offs are "wrong," these are quite easy and very good-looking, especially appropriate for situations when the bind-off shows.  Somehow or other, though, many machine knitters don't seem to know them.  Then I knocked out a fast picot hem.  This is all simple stuff, in my beginner DVD, but I like to cover it at seminars because they are techniques a lot of knitters haven't tried. 

Next, I dove into garter bar techniques.  The San Diego club has incredible teaching resources, with a very low cost adult education class, but they especially enjoyed this part of the classes.  I showed how to do garter stitch and Quaker stitch, which is much easier to do if you use your stopper properly.  However, everyone got VERY excited about the incredible speed-ripping technique and also about the "move only desired stitches" technique.

Here's the deal on the "move only desired stitches" trick:  you can set your machine's patterning device, whether punch card or electronic, to select the needles when it's time to cable, or select needles for lace transfers or other techniques, and that way, you move the correct stitches at the correct time.  Then there's a way to use your garter bar to leave the un-selected stitches safely in their hooks and easily move only the selected stitches.  I spoke only briefly about using the garter bar to increase and decrease.  Those garter bar ideas, and a bunch more, are in my Garter Bar Course, which is 2 DVDs only.
I showed how to do a set-in sleeve attached with short-rowing to an armhole.  Then I did the no-sew lined slipper from Footnotes, the sew-as-you-go sock from Footnotes, and showed how the tam goes together.  I did a little shaped Entrelac from Diamonds, and there went the day.
The second day, Sunday, I taught how to do scalloped lace, both the Stitch World method and the Enchanted Edgings version.  This was the most popular item at seminar for the San Diego gals.  Lots of Brother knitters in that group, and lots of lace fans! 
Then we put the ribber on and I did a bunch of ribber things, including quilted ribbing, sock techniques (knitted a circular sock, showing all the techniques), did the ruched heart trim, the twisted fringes, the mitered ribbing for bands, a cast-off, the bubble wrap stitch, and pretty much wore 'em out.
Typically, lunch and snacks will be right in the room or close by, and that's what we did in San Diego.  Groups meet up at restaurants after class at the end of the day. 
We had over 40 people at the San Diego seminar, and all sorts of personal interactions are always going on - people helping each other with knitting problems, selling or giving away a bit of equipment or yarn, and showing off finished and unfinished objects.
It's a blast!  Try it sometime.  I am doing several more seminars this year, which I will announce on this blog.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Please, please help!

I try to answer questions.

Unfortunately, people ask me questions by posting comments on old blog posts.  I try to answer those.  I have no idea whether the person who asked ever sees it.  It's terrible.  Lots of steps for me, too.

Some people ask me questions on eBay.  Just tried to answer one dated today, and eBay says I can't reply because it's either "too old" or "invalid."  Bad place for a general knitting question.

Some people ask questions on YouTube, and half the time, it won't permit a reply.

I really do try very hard to answer questions, even if the answer is "I don't know."  I promise, I am not deliberately ignoring anyone.

HERE, on the blog, down the left-hand side, you will see an envelope icon.  Email me!  I can answer your email quickly and easily, and you will get an email in response so you will see it! 

Back In Austin This Evening

We've gotten home from our trip, and it was absolutely wonderful!  I will write about this incredible seminar experience later, when I've processed it all mentally.

The San Diego Machine Knitters Guild has some incredible things going on, and I want to write about that, as well.  The rest of our MK clubs can learn a lot of them.

Thank you, San Diego knitters, for an absolutely lovely experience.  Very special thanks to our hostess, Nancy! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Taking it on the road!

We finished packing for San Diego last night.  Leaving our son in charge here, John and I are going to visit family and then go to the seminar.  I'll teach a maching knitting seminar, and he'll be my faithful (and lovely, as magicians say) assistant.  This is a first for us, doing one of these together.

When I got all the stuff into our luggage for the seminar, John remarked that there wouldn't be much space for clothing.  I said, "It's always like that."  He said the big bag was too heavy already, and I better not put anything else in there.  He said he didn't think there was this much stuff.  I think I said "It's always like that" about four times and then belatedly had the good sense to shut up.  We are taking lots of handouts (there are 36 signed up for the seminar so far), lots of merchandise, lots of samples, microphone gear (because realistically, I need it with my little voice), my essential tools, and the usual clothing and toiletries for a trip. 

Then this morning as we dropped the last few items in, my new stupid line was, "Put this in.  It doesn't weigh very much."  Do you know what the sum total of a whole bunch of stuff, none of which weigh very much is, in a bag?  A very heavy bag.

I'm excited!  I haven't done a seminar in a little while and the San Diego organizers are a great group.  We get to visit family.  We had joked about getting away from Old Man Winter, but he hasn't really been around lately - it's beautiful here. 

I reworked the demos for the seminar to freshen them up.  I always customize them a little for a different group, based on what they tell me, but this time, I added some new things and dropped some old ones. 

This year, I'm trying to put up a new video on YouTube each month.  Hmm, don't hold me to it, but at least I have a start.  The twisted fringe demo was well-received in January, and February and March are already filmed and ready to put up.  Keep an eye on this space!

Sunday, February 3, 2013