Thursday, October 31, 2019

Now Available - Shawl Collection for Machine Knitters

Whew!  My new book is finally available to purchase at  The DVDs arrived from the duplicator the other day, and I can finally say it's ready to go.

So - what's here?  The book contains 9 shawl patterns, a mix of skill levels, techniques, and machine gauges, and then there's a 2-DVD set.  It simply took hours and hours of footage to teach all the different shawls. I was very pleased when I tested the  new DVDs the other day - super crisp HD pictures on our big-screen TV.  The book and DVD set is $25.  US postage is $3 and international shipping is more.

Rundown on the shawls:

The Self Fringing Shawl is a super beginner project.  I wrote the pattern for the mid-gauge, and I used a number of different yarns for it.  A good starting place would be a single package of Shawl in a Ball.

If you've been unhappy with self-fringing techniques in the past, you might have run into the problem that the knitting along the self-fringe unravels into a mess.  I have a "locked" fringe technique, and that problem is totally eliminated.

The two pictured are Shawl in a Cake, and take one package.  Another favorite samples was made with an end of sport weight slubby white yarn and a pile of small balls of leftover self-striping sock yarn.  It's a super scrappy project.  Forget hiding ends for all those color changes - they're fringe.

Miters and Lace was knitted on my bulky with the ribber.  I took advantage of U-shaped knitting technique to make a matched mitered triangle shawl out of "cakes" yarn.

This has hand-tooled scalloped lace edge with a great-looking mitered point for the center point of the shawl.  Details matter!

The Peacock Shawl is done on a bulky machine, no patterning or ribber required.  This one is a semi-circle, short-rowed triangles and a hand-tooled lace.  Make your lace tooling super easy by using a 7-stitch transfer tool.

The Peacock Shawl has an interesting straight edge finish - the extra-wide I-cord edging, to provide a sturdy edge for the most-handled part of the shawl.

I tried several yarns for this one.  The blue/green colorway shown is Shawl in a Cake.  This is big - you need two packs.  The oranges colorway is Caron Latte Cakes.  That particular shawl is absolutely the comfiest, warmest shawl in my huge box of samples.  Caron had discontinued this yarn, but it's back now, and I've seen it at Michael's in new colorways.

Color-changing yarn or "cakes" yarn is fun for this shawl,,because you get a starburst effect with the colors.

Half Circle Shawl with Leaf Edging is made on the standard gauge Brother with a Stitch World lace for the outer edge.  I've taught the Stitch World method of scalloped edgings before, but if you wanted, you could use any of the "Enchanted Edgings" on this one, instead.  The edging was knitted afterwards and put on with sew-as-you-go technique for a nearly undetectable seam.  The starburst design is lace eyelets this time.

The Mirror Image Lace Triangular Shawl is a pattern I've had for years, but didn't sell, because it's a little more advanced and has very unusual techniques, particularly the mirror image lace. It's in this book, though, because I included all the video necessary to see exactly what needs done to get the effect
The lace matches in the middle of the triangle, and the shawl also featured a fancy edge.  This is made on a standard gauge Brother electronic using a Stitch World pattern.

The Bias Lace Triangle Shawlette was my approach to getting stripes that slide along the triangle without using the garter bar.  I used bias lace on the standard gauge machine with a lace carriage along with self-striping sock yarn.  Both sides are pretty; I don't know which side should be "public."

These bias lace projects are easy, and I have two in the book.  The second on is a chevron shape, Chevron Bias Lace Shawl, a nice, big shawl made of two trapezoids of bias lace.  Halfway through, change direction and make the lace bias the other direction!

The Drop Lace Stole is a bulky project that requires a ribber.  Drop Lace was a featured stitch for the Brother 260/270 machine ribbers.  It's pretty and it's easy, but I haven't used the technique all that often.  Try something fuzzy and warm for this shawl, which is a big, wrap-me-up stole. I first made it for my tall daughter-in-law, who liked it because it is generous-sized.

Finally, the book has a poncho, which is sized for adults as well as children.  People are wearing ponchos again, and these look so cute on little girls and stay on.

That's the Slider Lace Poncho, knitted on the mid-gauge with a very simple hand-tooled pattern, shown in the closeup photo.

This is just two rectangles, if you're a beginner, and it has two different but simples edgings to learn for the neckline and the bottom edge.  I also teach how to put the two seams in on the machine.  Those seams join a side edge to a top edge, and a good way to make them look great is to put them together on the machine.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Finished the Baby Velvet Adult-Sized Afghan

Wow, it's finally finished!  This was a LOT of short-rowed shells to knit.  I've been knitting on it a little almost every day for a couple weeks.

I love doing these.  This was the child's pattern with a different yarn an a looser tension, only 12 stitches).

It's very, very soft.  It's pet-able!  Chenille is sure quirky, though, as you'll see as I describe finishing, below.

I used the same edging I used on several of the shawls - an extra wide I-cord made by latching the inside ladder by hand every few rows.  I just love this edge, and it really gave a needed reinforcement to this afghan.  The chenille is a somewhat floppy, and the sturdy double edge helped.  That edge eliminates all edge curl and looks good on both sides.  It went on tighter, though, than I expected.  I had to turn up the tension to #10 (the afghan was knitted on T9), and I had to use weight and be sure to pick up every side loop along the sides (just the loops, not the knots - the idea is to get every other row) and every stitch on the top.  I didn't have a problem with it going on tight with the other yarns.

The afghan has a hem at the bottom, and the pattern says to put a hem at the top.  Because this was chenille I knew sewing a top hem would be a problem.  Chenille is hard to pull through with a needle, likely to break, and loses its fur being pulled through over and over.  Binding off the hem with the latch tool was going to make a lumpy line at the bottom of the hem.  Instead of using a top hem, I did this:

  • Made the final row of "finishing shells," which are shorter than the regular shells.  End that row of shells with one row of the same color over all the needles so there are no double loops from short-rowing to pick up.
  • Put on 6 rows of waste yarn with a contrasting color of worsted weight yarn.  
  • Do the I-cord edge, picking up one stitch from the top edge along the waste knitting each time.  Be sure to use the looser tension for this, T10.
That top edge is beautiful, straight, sturdy, and not lumpy at all.  The smaller pic is that top edge. 

The next photo is the detail of an inside corner at the bottom - it shows the hem which curves along the shells, gives you an idea what the purl side of the seashell stitch looks like, and also what the inside of the I-cord edge and bottom hem look like.  If you want warmth and to not snag fingers and toes, this pattern has no holes and no floats.  

I took a bunch of photos, walked away, and only then decided to steam the edgings only.  I wanted to stretch them a little, just gently, as the corners cupped a little.  I also wanted to make sure the curved bottom hem was flat.

I suppose that if you wanted a straight line at the bottom, you could start with one row of the shorter finishing shells, but I prefer the curves. 

I did not steam the seashells at all, just the edges.  The chenille made a flatter seashell than any other yarn I've tried, and I wanted texture.

Another warning about the chenille - yarn ends do not want to stay hidden!  I keep tucking them in and the tip ends keep working out.  Fortunately, I knitted almost every end in by e-wrapping six needles on the wrong side.  

Here's the afghan spread out on a bed for steaming.

That's a queen-sized bed, and you can see what a BIG afghan this is.  I wanted it big, and it turned out wider than the mid-gauge needle bed.  It's not very often you get an adult-size afghan with just one width of the knitting.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Yarn Challenge - Baby Velvet

This yarn jumped into my shopping cart at Michael's:

I usually shy away from Chenille.  Although it is incredibly soft and pretty, it can be difficult to knit.  Sometimes it biases so I have a  diamond instead of a rectangle, and sometimes it "worms" later, after the project is finished and used.

I have had good luck with high quality chenille, in terms of holding up once it was knitted, and truly lousy luck with other chenille yarns.  I like all-cotton chenille.

This is polyester chenille, and I didn't know how it would behave.  I wanted it anyway.  I was standing in the store petting it like a yarn idiot.  I thought the colors were wonderful beachy, shell colors and I have loved ones who live in Huntington Beach.  I don't know how true the colors are on your monitor, but the pink is a pale, slightly peachy rose and the other color is a pale taupe.  My plan was to make the Seashell Stitch Child's Afghan, but adult-sized.  (This is not the seashell stitch in the YouTube video.  I've changed the method and like this one better.)

I also didn't know how much to buy, and purchased two skeins of each color, hoping it was enough for an afghan.  The yardage is incredible - 492 yards in a 10.5 ounce (300 gram) skein.  It's labeled yarn group 4 (worsted) with 4 stitches to the inch.

Chenille yarn has a central core and cut fibers coming out from there.  That means that sometimes you can get chenille yarn to knit on a smaller gauge machine than you'd expect.  I had already been experimenting with using my 150-needle mid-gauge with a loose tension and somewhat larger yarns.  I was very pleasantly surprised at how well this yarn knits on my Studio 860 mid-gauge at tension 9.

Now I've knitted a while (seashell stitch takes a bit of time, as it is all short-rowing), and I have two big, awesome surprises!

Awesome Width - I have already ranted about how wide Seashell Stitch turns out.  I am getting over 46" in width!   This is before the edging I use on that blanket.  It is actually a little wider than the needle bed.

Awesome Yardage - I had already mentioned how much yardage there was, but as soon as I had a little knitting done, I realized how very light the fabric is.  I don't mean thin and cool - not at all!  This is fluffy and warm.  I'm referring to how light a whole handful of the fabric feels, almost weightless. 
The yarn just goes on and on.  I have used most of the first two skeins and I've already got 43" in length. 

Even if I make this afghan extra long (I like long afghans) and add my side edging, I will have yarn left over! 

I am very happy with the stitch.  Of course, as soon as I got going, I thought about other ways I could do this.  I could use more colors and graduate them; I could use a background color and all sorts of colors for the shell checkers.  Two rows of each color makes a bit of a ripple.  However, the option that really fires my imagination is to make diagonal stripes, which I already know from making mid-gauge shell shawls is easy.  This just shows you how hard I am finding it to get this stitch out of my system.

I did give out the Seashell Stitch Shawl pattern, which is not yet available for sale, to my Princeton, Minnesota seminar participants, and I asked for feedback on the pattern.  I am going to give it to the San Francisco seminar attendees next month, too. 

Here's a closeup of the knit side of the shell stitch in this yarn, unblocked and still hanging on the machine.  It is making up with less of a three-dimensional texture than it has in other yarns, but it still has the raised look to each shell.  The fabric is soft, light, and a bit limp. 

If you work with this yarn, do rewind it and use it from the outside, leaving it on the winder's core.  I put mine on cones, and it is feeding into the machine very well.  Just looking at the stuff as it feeds, I can see it has a tendency to catch on itself on its way to the upper tension unit, and I know it would tangle and give me trouble if it were poorly rewound.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Something New at My Shopping Site - Seashell Child's Blanket

I had a YouTube video showing a quick, easy way to make the seashell stitch.  Lately, though, I've made several projects with it and come up with a different way to make it.

I am crazy about this stitch.  I make it and make it; it takes more time to make each short-rowed shell, but the texture is just lovely and the shapes fascinate me.

With my new selling site, I am putting up some single patterns you can buy.  I send them by email as .pdf files.  These don't have video files included, just instructions.  People has asked for this, and my first one was the simplified Entrelac blanket.  This new one is a blanket made with the seashell stitch.  I used at hem at the bottom, but at the top, in order to have a nice border, I made shortened seashells to give a straighter edge.

This is a mid-gauge pattern.  I am pleased with the width I get from this stitch.  It's 43" wide.

The reason this blanket looks so crazy is I simply used Ice Cream yarn, which is self-striping with big blocks of white, yellow, and turquoise.  I love the random craziness of it, but you can make an orderly shell blanket if you like.  I am about to try one alternating the two rows in two colors.

Here's the pattern's shopping page.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Friday, October 18, 2019

"Top This" Hat Kits

When I was teaching at Cindy Schmatz' Princeton, Minnesota seminar last week, she had her shop open after each day.  I bought a few machine knitting tools (her prices are awesome) and I picked up two Top This hat kits from DMC.  Cindy had a wonderful price on them.

I knew I already had one at home, but I also knew that I'd be spending almost a whole day flying home (two flights and a layover) and in need of something to do.  Hand knitting is a wonderful activity for days when you simply have to wait.

The pattern inside only has toddler and small adult sizes, but more sizes are available on a website.  I knitted the Giraffe first, shooting for a size a little larger than toddler for a preschooler great niece (added a few stitches and rows myself, didn't bother to download the pattern).  What I needed to know was, what tools were required?  The wrapper said to buy a size 9 knitting 16" circular needle and a set of size 9 double-point knitting needles.  I would also need stitch markers and a sewing needle.  I had my giveaway yarn sewing needles with me and some stitch markers from the LAMBS sock crank-in I attended for a half day (they gave us a wonderful goody bag).

I have a huge collection of hand knitting supplies at home, and wanted to buy as little hardware as possible.  I don't like knitting on double points, and I thought about knitting back and forth and putting in a neat seam.  I settled on buying two 16" size 9 circular needles and using the (so-called) "magic loop" method for a seamless result.  John and I took a field trip to a Crafts Direct store, which we don't have here, and it was quite fun to look around in there and purchase my needles.

I was lucky and got gauge without trying more needle sizes.  I didn't want to buy more sizes when I have so many at home.  Also, the 16" needle was very comfortable to use with this number of stitches.  I didn't have to stretch or gather the hat too much as I worked.  I knitted the giraffe hat on flying day, and part of the bear hat, which is the toddler size.  After I got home, I knew I already had the lion kit, so I knitted that one up, too, goofing off and watching TV.
I was happy with the quality of the kit.  I like the simple instructions and the easy way to do the smooth spiral crown with stitch markers.  The yarn colors are beautiful and vivid, and the stuffed animal heads are secured with attached ribbon and a disk inside the hat allowing for removal for cleaning.  On the bear, I brought the ribbon back outside to make a neck bow.  They certainly give you plenty of yarn - in fact, when I knitted the lion hat for a larger kid, I decided to double the ribbing rows and make a fold-up brim for extra ear coverage.  If I had this project to do again, I'd have done that on all the hats, but I didn't realize how much extra yarn I would have.  I'm sure there is enough yarn for an adult hat, if you've got a young adult who loves the hats.

I may use the pattern again to hand knit an adult hat.  I have some gorgeous 100% mohair that knits worsted gauge left from a KM project, and I also have one of those fur hat toppers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

FUN at DFW Machine Knitting Seminar

Six of us carpooled to Dallas last weekend to attend the DFW Machine Knitters Guild's annual October seminar.  Linda Jensen (My Blue Heaven Knits) demonstrated this year.

We had about 30 in attendance.  It was wonderful!

I know for a fact that there are lots of knitters within driving distance who did not come.  They probably don't go to the club meetings, either.  Did they know about the seminar?  I don't know.

This morning I was thinking about reasons not to attend a seminar.

Gee, I don't know anyone.  I won't be comfortable not knowing anyone.

Shoot that one right down.  These are KNITTERS.  Knitters are an incredibly enjoyable social group.  Nice, nice, nice, plus extremely excited to have new people in attendance.  Knitters take the beginners and give them the best seats in the room.  Demonstrators let them stand right behind the machine to see everything.  From time to time, they let the beginners sit at the machine and try it themselves.  They let them (and non-beginners) take home swatches from the demos.

Knitters are so kind and social that I'm dazzled by them every time.  They joke, they laugh, they look after each other.  They have so many odd behaviors in common.  For instance, we collect yarn, we collect machines, and we collect patterns.  We let each other examine the seams and hems on our clothing.

Here's another possible reason:  I'll be bored.

Well, you might get bored.  I didn't see it at Linda's class, but you could.  You could have spent the prior evening eating and drinking and talking, then stayed up half the night in the sleepover atmosphere created by sharing hotel rooms with other knitters.  You might have just come back from eating a great plate of pub food and get a little after-lunch slump going.  But it didn't happen to me!  I've been knitting so many years that I don't like to admit it because it's like announcing my age, and I don't get bored.  I sit there thinking, oh, that's different than the way I do it.  Why does she like to do it that way?  She's making WHAT?  That's something I've never tried to make.

I don't know about you, but I've noticed that getting away from home has very salutary effects of my psyche.  I'm just having fun, and I'm not looking at all the stuff I ought to be cleaning up, or finishing, or otherwise doing.

How about this one?  It's expensive.

Well, if you go to seminar you might spend some money.  First of all, there's the hotel and all those meals and drinks.  But I'll speak for my little group.  The seminar fee was surprisingly small - really ridiculous for two full days of teaching.  That works because we're all chipping in on flying in and paying a teacher. Also, we shared hotel rooms, two to a room, and we carpooled to and from.  Of course the local people didn't need the hotel rooms.  Our group brought snacks, got free breakfast at the hotels, and some of us skipped the drinking or just had a drink and an appetizer.  At seminar, we learn about good places to purchase supplies, or talked to people who are willing to swap equipment, or learned how to fix something that would have cost a lot to ship somewhere for repairs. I've been to seminars where knitters scored great free equipment from someone who just wanted to find a good home for it.

Some seminars have bulletin boards where people sell and trade things.  I have gotten some of the most amazing deals because it's what I need but you have two and just want it gone.  Some seminars have vendors who bring knitting supplies and you can get what you need and not pay shipping.  Not having to pay shipping is especially nice when you need sponge bars!  Sometimes there's a repair guy there and you can get your machine serviced or repaired and not have to ship it.  Shipping a machine is both expensive and risky.  Seminars also have fellow knitters who can answer your questions about equipment you might buy, it's strengths and pitfalls and what good prices are in the area.

My husband was at DFW repairing items.  He was in a separate room, but it was a little distracting.  I'm sorry for that distraction, Linda!  The distraction was we were all holding our breath as to whether he could fix a Brother 260 that would not pattern.  It is a beautiful machine and Lyn just acquired it, but it wouldn't select any pattern needles.  John did manage to fix it, finally.  This is not one of John's typical repair jobs, and he had told her he'd try, and if he couldn't fix it with what he brought along, he wouldn't charge.  If the knitter had to mail that to a repair place, the freight would have been about triple the cost of the repair, since that is one hefty machine and the problem was in the bed.  John also repaired several CB-1s and E6000s and those knitters didn't have to mail them anywhere.

The DFW folks had a table of door prizes.  There were a lot of knitting magazines and books there, and some yarn, as well.  Everyone wins, eventually.  I was eyeballing a book I wanted, and even though my name wasn't called early I got that book!  At the end of the seminar, they want the items GONE and you can take a few more home.  I love back issues of knitting magazines.  There are all kinds of cool ideas and techniques in them.

Speaking of seminars, Cindy Schmatz has one this month (Oct 11-12), in Princeton Minnesota, and I'm teaching there.  Cindy still has some spaces.  Click here for more information!