Sock Season

March 23, 2014

Michael played his last basketball game of the season today, so my days of knitting from the bleachers in a warm gym are over for now.

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Given the elusiveness of springtime warmth, I think it’ll be a while before I’m knitting from the sidelines of a lacrosse field.

Special thanks to Kevin who held up the sock so I could get a shot of Michael (#3 in blue) in the background.

 


Class time

March 22, 2014

I’ve said before how much I enjoy teaching knitting, and my current class is no exception. Once a week, these six intrepid women gather around the table, needles in hand, patterns laid out and personally annotated, and they dive into their projects. Chatting, whispered counting (34, 35 — damn, I’m supposed to have 36!), an occasional curse, and laughter abound.

Everyone gives a little update and has a question or two about how to proceed (dropped or added stitches are common). We break after about a half hour for a brief lesson — how to join yarn, how to bind off, different ways to cast on, common pattern abbreviations — and then it’s back to the individual projects.

Rachel announced that her tween daughter turned up her nose at the North Face knock-off hat — with cables! — that her mother had created. We admired the hat and commiserated over the fickle fashion tastes of children.

RachelHat

She’s also working on a luscious infinity scarf for the same daughter. If she doesn’t like this one, I’d invoke the “two strikes and you’re out” rule. Although, given my soft heart and love of knitting, I probably wouldn’t implement said “rule.” I don’t know what yarn she’s using. I’ll check and let you know.

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The highlight of the past week, at least for me, was Erin’s first finished project — a small cotton washcloth (or dishcloth) in a variety of stitches: garter, stockinette, seed. She cast on, tinked back to correct errors, switched stitches every once in a while, learned that starting or ending with garter stitch will keep the edge from rolling, and bound off.

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She’s justifiably proud, don’t you agree?

ErinWashcloth

 


Something new-ish

March 5, 2014

Since I like knitting socks so much, I’ve vowed to always have one in progress. They’re portable, enjoyable, and provide ample opportunity for variety.

When I finished Michael’s pair, I decided to try the Magic Loop method of knitting — instead of three DPNs (my preferred tools), one long circular needle is used. Having heard the dreaded “ping” of a DPN falling on the floor or gym bleacher, the idea of using a needle that I couldn’t drop was appealing. Plus, I like learning new things.

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The process looks very fiddly and, like many things, looks really complicated until you figure it out. It took me a few severn or eight rounds to get the hang of the sliding stitches, pulling cords, and flipping needles, but I’ve done it.

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Now that the cuff is done, I need to figure out what the leg will be. Plain stockinette stitch or something new?

 


Happy Feet

February 28, 2014

One of the reasons it took me so long to try knitting socks was that I thought that no one would want to wear them. And by no one, I mean no one except me. And even I wasn’t so sure that I’d find them comfortable.

One of the biggest and best surprises was how very wrong I was. All three of my children love handknit socks. And now Michael finally has his own pair.

MichaelSocks

It’s the Yarn Harlot’s basic sock recipe (on Ravelry and in Knitting Rules - love that book) for a size 11.5 men’s, below calf, in red multi Berroco Sox.

 

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I made no effort to match the stripes. I like a bit of randomness every now and then, especially in something as safe as socks. Kevin, whose feet are about the same size, has requested that I make his next pair smaller than the last pair. Those are comfy, he assures me. Just a bit too floppy. I’ll drop down a needle size so they’re more snug.

I think I’ll try a toe-up pattern for something new. Any suggestions?


Oh The Places You’ll Knit

February 21, 2014

One of the aspects of knitting that I love is its portability. Most projects can be stuffed into a bag, ready to be pulled out whenever you have a bit of time and, for me at least, when your body will be stationary. Movement and knitting don’t work so well for me!

Think you don’t have much time? That’s another magical aspect of knitting; it can transform time. Waiting for the novacaine to kick in at the dentist’s office? That’s time enough to work a few sock rounds.

SockAtDentist

Keeping a teenager company as he finishes a paper for school in the wee hours of the morning?

HomeworkSock

How about waiting for x-rays to be developed and a cast put onto same teenager’s wrist? Trust me, I was knitting for a while but couldn’t resist a photo of cast-in-progress.

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Or “watching” a blow-out Superbowl game with two nieces, both of whom are new knitters? Nothing finer!

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Add non-driving/non-bike travel (bus, subway, passenger seat, airplane, boat…) and TV or movie watching, and the opportunities are enormous!


Late Winter Knitting Classes

February 12, 2014

After the success and enthusiasm of last fall’s class — from Seema, our intrepid novice, to Judy’s first sock — I’m happy to offer two new classes: one for beginner’s and one for intermediate knitters.

I sent the following email to about 25 local friends this morning and looking forward to the responses.

What’s on your needles these days?

Beginner Knitting

Would you like to learn to knit?
Do you know the basics but are ready to move beyond a scarf?
You’ve got knit & purl stitches but don’t know how to bind off or fix your mistakes?

In this class, you’ll make a lovely hat and develop a strong foundation of skills so you can continue knitting different types of projects with confidence. You will learn how to: cast on, knit, purl, decrease, increase, knit back and forth, knit in the round, knit on double-pointed needles, bind off, and read a basic pattern.

6 Tuesday mornings: Feb. 25, March 4, 11, 18, 25, April 1
9:30am – 11:30am
Cost: $90
Location: Newton Centre

Materials needed: Approximately 175 yds heavy worsted wool (approx 4-5 stitches per inch on size 8-10 needles), size 9 16″ circular needles, size 9 double-pointed needles, stitch markers, darning needle.

**Class size limited to 8 **

Becoming a Fearless Knitter: Intermediate Knitting

This class is for knitters with some experience who are ready to learn something new and become more confident. If you are working on a project of your own and/or are ready to challenge yourself with cables, lace knitting, chart reading, socks, or other knitting skills, this is the class for you. We’ll work in an open workshop setting where instructor and fellow knitters support each other to create and finish knitting projects.

6 Thursday mornings: Feb. 27, March 6, 13, 20, 27, April 3
10:am – noon
Cost: $90
Location: Newton Centre

** Class size limited to 8 **

To Register:

 Leave a comment with your contact information, knitting experience (if any), and — for the intermediate class — what you’d like to learn. Payment information, address, and a list of materials needed for the first class will be sent promptly.

About Me

I’ve been knitting off and on for several decades and absolutely love it — the portability, the creative outlet, the solitary and social aspects of knitting, the pleasure of finishing something, and the joy of giving or wearing. I’ve taught knitting off and on for the past 8 years in a variety of settings.

My first post — back in May 2010 (!) — highlights some of the reasons why I love this craft.

 


Cool Sock, Mom

January 25, 2014

Aaaaand the bathroom pipes have frozen again despite my precautionary tactics of leaving the shower dripping and the faucets drizzling (that’s a steady stream of drips, a technical plumbing term I’m pretty sure). Apparently even these steps weren’t enough to keep the water flowing in single digit temperatures. Until I see water flowing down the walls, I’m operating under the assumption that they’ll thaw when the temperature gets close to or above freezing. Humming “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” helps.

In knitting news, I finished Michael’s first sock while waiting with Kevin at the sports medicine clinic. A wrist injury from football season is still painful at times, so the mid-point of the hockey season seemed like a good time to seek medical help!

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It looks way too small for a size 11 foot in this photo. This shot is better.

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He’s so delighted with the finished product that he’s asked if I can finish its pair pretty soon. I’ll get right on that…assuming the pipes thaw without bursting.


Sock Travels

January 21, 2014

While you could hardly say that I lead a jet set life, I’ve had my share of short, turn-around flights over the past few years. Most were work-related as I traveled between Boston and Philadelphia to a client, generally flying down and back in the same day although sometimes with an overnight. Since I finished that piece of work, I’ve not had the occasion to travel much.

Hannah’s role in a musical at a community theatre in North Carolina this month provided me and my Mom the chance to take a brief trip for Friday’s opening night performance. My latest sock (Berroco Sox in Red Multi) joined us. On the flight to Raleigh-Durham, I knit a few inches plus the heel flap.

TravelingSock

The show, 9 to 5: The Musical, was very well done. You’ll have to take my word for it, especially since photos were prohibited and no reviews are out. And, of course, Hannah was terrific. Yes, I’m biased but I know talent when I see it!

When we arrived at the airport Saturday morning, we discovered our flight was delayed two hours because of snow in Boston. One of the great things about knitting is the way it transforms waiting into something enjoyable — or at least distracts the knitter from some of the frustration of waiting. The heel was turned and gusset begun.

TravelingSockHeel

The time-transforming power of knitting was tested a bit when the pilot announced, as we were second in line to take off, that the Boston airport had gone into a “ground delay” and that we’d be waiting for another hour before we left the ground. And he kindly thanked us for our patience, to which Mom said, “Do we have a choice?” She didn’t have her knitting — just a book, one apparently without time-transforming powers.

What really matters is we made it home safe and sound, if somewhat later than expected, AND with a close-to-finished sock as a souvenir (of sorts).

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Strange, Sacred Time

January 9, 2014

The most recent cold snap has broken and the pipes in the second floor bathroom have thawed — without bursting, again. The contractor from whom we bought our house ran pipes up an uninsulated, exterior wall and didn’t add any heat to the bathroom — duh! We leave the taps and shower dripping and put a space heater in when the wind chill gets below 10F, but that wasn’t quite enough for the recent deep freeze. Suffice to say, the water is again flowing and the pipes have not cracked. (Fingers crossed, salt over shoulder, etc.)

Christmas came and went and was lovely, if a bit strange this year. All agreed that we had an awesome tree. I think every Christmas tree is beautiful just by being, but this balsam was particularly lovely and well-proportioned even before it was decorated with our extensive ornament collection. The decorating festivities included Grandma, lots of laughs, and only two broken ornaments.

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We’ve entered a new part of our life journey over the past month or so since my father-in-law, who lives nearby and has been in a rehab facility for six weeks, decided after nearly six years of kidney dialysis and a failing body (multiple spinal fractures, constant pain, limited vision) that he doesn’t want to die in an ambulance or in the emergency room. He’ll have his last dialysis treatment in 10 days and will then go home where he can die in peace — without pain, surrounded by the familiar and the loved — including his wife of 52 years and his remarkable daughter and son (my sweet husband).

To be sure, it’s sad, but it’s not tragic, and in some ways, it’s a sacred time. His decision and planning, aided in large part by son Patrick and daughter Claire, have given his family and friends a gift in the opportunity to express their love and appreciation to him. It’s a gift to himself — although it may not feel that way all the time — to be able to hear those expressions, to accept them with a humble and generous spirit.

On the knitting front, Kevin was pleased with his new socks even though one is a bit too big. I took my circular scarf down to the wire — knitting during cocktails on Christmas Eve and weaving in the ends on Christmas Day. Thanks to Claire for capturing me in all my knitterly glory!

XmasEveKnitter


Know What’s Fast? Arm Knitting (seriously)

December 11, 2013

Inspired by Skye, an extraordinary young girl at the Friday knitting group at JP Knit & Stitch, and by a recent Wall Street Journal article and video, I decided to try something new.

As we sat together on the window seat last week, Skye created this loose, chunky, oh-so-soft scarf.

SkyeScarf

Totally intrigued, I bought a skein and the next day made a chunky circular scarf in about 30 minutes using only yarn and my arms. Look Mom, no needles!

ArmKnits

I cast on (using the long-tail method) 6 stitches and used two strands of yarn. I chose Malabrigo Rasta in Soriano, a lovely black-purple-gold combo that I hope will look good on the recipient, who has a new black down coat (to keep out the icy winds of NYC) and who wears a lot of black as she moves from dance class to stage and back again. Taking one strand from inside and one from the outside of the ball ensured that I ended up with the same amount.

ArmCowl

It took me two attempts to get the hang of the “knitting” so the total time was closer to an hour. Looking back, I think that I got the stitches and movements right but it looked so different that I thought I’d made a mistake. Stitching together was pretty straight forward (no needle involved).

I generally don’t care how long a project takes and have been known to rip out projects twice or even three times in order to get the finished product to come out right. But I must admit that a bit of instant gratification now and then can be quite exhilarating!

ArmCowl2


Pardon the Interruption

December 6, 2013

We (that’s the royal “we”) interrupt the usual knitting stuff for a brief baking interlude.

I’ve written before about the pre-Christmas traditions in my home — the Advent wreath on the table, lights in the windows, the creche above the fireplace, the Advent calendars (usually two) that hang in the kitchen, and baking St. Nicholas cookies for December 6, the Feast of Saint Nicholas.

I won’t repeat myself on all those details, but I will provide the recipe and some tips for making this yummy cookies. They have a somewhat adult flavor — sort of spicy and not-too-sweet. Flavors are cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, anise, and ginger.

CookieSpices

Young children tend not to enjoy them, which is just fine as far as I’m concerned because it means there are more for me!

My recipe card, copied from my Mom’s recipe, has a few splatters, as any well-loved recipe should.

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Sift together:
3 c flour
4 t baking powder
1 T cinnamon
1 t EACH ground cloves and nutmeg
1/2 t EACH ground ginger, salt, and ground anise seed (I use a coffee grinder or mortar & pestle. You could skip the anise and they’d likely be delicious, just not quite the same)

Beat 1 c butter, 1 1/2 c brown sugar together until fluffy.
Stir in 3 T milk, dark rum or brandy.
Add flour & spice mixture, mix well, and form into ball. Don’t worry if the dough looks a bit dry here. When you pick it up and form a ball, it’ll come together nicely.

Grab a big handful of dough and knead it between your hands briefly until it forms a ball (but not so long that the warmth of your hands makes it sticky).

Roll out onto floured counter until approx. 1/4″ thick. I don’t measure but estimate that my rolled dough is a bit less than 1/4″ thick. Don’t worry about making a particular shape with the dough — a quasi-rectangle is just fine since you’ll cut the rough edges.

RolledDough

Cut the rolled dough into strips that are approximately 1/2″ – 1″ wide. Then cut each strip into a length that’s somewhere between 2″ and 5″. You needn’t be precise — it’s not a beauty contest and there are no cookie police. Save the scraps that you’ve cut from the rough edges and use those in the next ball that you roll out.

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Place onto lightly greased/non-stick cookie sheet (or use parchment paper).
Brush with lightly beaten egg white. (I’ve been known to skip/forget this step, which results in an ever-so-slightly more dry cookie).

Bake in 375 degree oven for 9-12 minutes. Since the cooking time depends on how thin you’ve rolled the dough, I recommend checking at 9 minutes and then every minute or so after. Take them out when they’re more-than-golden but not yet dark brown.

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Cool on a rack and enjoy. I love them dipped into a mug of tea or a glass of cold milk.

If you make them, let me know how they turned out.


Ambidextrous? I Think Not.

November 18, 2013

Just before I finished the second of K’s socks, I succumbed to the lure of my next project: the Diamonds Are Faux-Ever cowl.  It’s a Fair Isle style, knit with two yarns, one of which changes color, giving the illusion that you’re knitting with more than two.

fair isle style cowl

I modified the pattern slightly, starting with the solid green [Cascade 220 Superwash in Shire] rather than the multi-colored [Liberty Wool in Neon Parade].

This is my first attempt at Fair Isle so to save time switching between the two yarns, I’ve starting holding the yarns in separate hands. It took multiple attempts to find a “wrap” for my left hand that was the right blend of snugness without being constricting. I doubt I’ll make the switch to Continental style, but it’s fun to try something new.

As you can see, M’s basketball season is starting — at least, the practice part — just as the football season is winding down. Knitting in a gym is much easier and enjoyable than knitting outdoors in the chill and dark of November. Of course, K’s hockey season will start soon and knitting at an ice rink is — if you’ll pardon the expression — a whole different ball game.


Socktober, Just Under the Wire

October 31, 2013

Since she was unable to attend class this week, I paid a house call to Judy who was close to finishing her first sock. We’d met earlier in the week after she texted that she had a “knitting crisis” with the gusset and asked if I had a few minutes to help.

Non-knitters may scoff at the idea of a knitting crisis, but most of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Been there. Done that and survived, often with the help of a friend who talked us down from the “I’m-going-to-rip-out-the-whole-thing” edge.

What she needed, and what I was happy to provide, was a steady voice talking her through the toe shaping and reassuring her that, yes indeed, she was doing it right. She chanted through the Kitchener stitch mantra (more on that below) and then she had it, a complete, correctly proportioned, cozy, bee-yoo-ti-ful sock!

JudySock

I think she was appropriately pleased and proud even as she voiced doubt about whether she’d be able to make its mate. She can and she will.

A couple of days before, I’d shaped the toe of the first of K’s socks and was down to 8 stitches per needle. Since no one wants a seam along the toe of a sock, these stitches would be joined, or grafted, together (as opposed to being bound off and then seamed).

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I keep a Kitchener stitch cheat sheet rolled up in my darning needle holder so it’s right where I can find it when I need it. I’ll spare you the details of how long it took me to get the damn thing out of the tube. Suffice to say that I used DPNs as chopsticks before resorting to tweezers.

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I talked my way through each move: through stitch on front needle as if to purl, leave on needle; through stitch on back as if to knit, leave….

And then there it was.

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I don’t know if Socktober is a thing, but I like the sound of it so there you go.


A Knitter at Heart

October 20, 2013

My sister-friend Liz and I have been friends for more than four decades. We grew up together in central Maine and now are fortunate enough to live about 1.5 miles from each other. We have a walking date every Wednesday morning at 6:00am — and we go out year-round, which in New England means in all kinds of weather and often in the dark. While the walk is good for our hearts and muscles, it’s even better for our souls — kind of like therapy.

Liz isn’t a knitter but she understands how important this craft is to me — as a creative outlet and a calming influence (except when it’s not). Yesterday, she gave me this for a birthday gift:

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A beautifully hand-crafted, blue (my favorite color) pottery bowl with a lovely sheep on one side. But this is no ordinary bowl, dear reader. This is a yarn bowl, especially for a knitter (made by the clever Susan LeBlanc Brum of Hog Wild Pottery).

yarnbowl

I think Liz may have been a knitter in another life.


Lemons into Lemonade (in a knitting sort of way)

October 18, 2013

Friend Rachel, who’s one of the students in my knitting class, had nearly finished binding off her cotton “butterfly” washcloth when she encountered an extra loopy stitch. You know, the last stitch of a row that can be a bit wonky, the one that can leave you with an extra bump after binding off.

Demonstrating that she really is a fearless knitter (in addition to being an intelligent, generous, and witty woman), Rachel deftly turned that odd stitch into a little loop so as to hang the cloth. Turning a mistake into a design element — love it!

dishclothLoop


WTF does WYIF mean?

October 16, 2013

Several of the students in my knitting class want to learn how to read a pattern, so I’ve started them off on a delightful cotton washcloth. Washcloths are great first project because (1) there’s a high probability you will finish (unlike a scarf which can be interminable), and (2) they provide ample opportunity for learning new stitches and reading a pattern.

After the first class, Rachel emailed with a question, “I’ve done my 4 rows of seed stitch for the border. Can you tell me what sl5p wyif means?”

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This was the ideal opportunity to reinforce a key rule of following a pattern: read the entire pattern before you begin. And take notes, right on the pattern. Rachel did a lovely job of this. See those four checks next to each of the seed stitch border row instructions?

Don’t be shy. Use a highlighter to mark all instructions related to the size you’re making. Circle, flag, or (my favorite) star those details that you want to be sure not to miss — like “do this and that for 16 rows and, at the same time, bind off two stitches at the beginning of each row.”

In the washcloth pattern, as in most patterns, special stitch combinations are defined at the start of the pattern — a pattern-within-a-pattern, of sorts. There it was:

sl5P wyif = slip the next 5 sts as if to purl with yarn at front of work (this forms a yarn strand on the right side of the fabric).

This is the point at which a knitter must speak aloud, slowly and clearly while following the instructions word for word. It usually takes me two or three talk-throughs before I understand what I’m to do. I find it best to do this while alone or at least at home, where I’m less likely to be interrupted by someone asking “what did you say?” Because then I’d have to stop and explain and then start all over again!

Rachel figured it out — while hanging out at her daughter’s soccer game, no less. She even sent a photo when she got home. Look at those bands stretching across 5 stitches!

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Back to Class

October 14, 2013

I’m so pleased to be teaching again! For the past two Wednesday mornings, a group of 8 intrepid women has gathered around the table and dived into knitting.  The two hours fly by — at least, for me.

Most of the students have knit before — some many years ago, some intermittently, some just starting. Nearly all want to learn how to fix mistakes since that’s why many of them stop a project. They realize they’ve done something wrong but don’t know how to remedy and move on. Reading a pattern is also high on the list of goals.

Seema had never held a pair of needles, so her task for the first two weeks was to become familiar with the feel of the needles and yarn: holding them without gripping, working yarn in the fingers of her right hand, shoulders relaxed. Explaining and demonstrating for her made me realize how much of this is second nature to someone who has the “muscle memory” of the craft.

By the second class, Seema cast on an entire 30 stitches and was moving on to her second row of what would most likely become a cotton washcloth.

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Amy arrived at the second class with a nearly-finished hat, but she needed to switch to double-pointed needles (DPNs) for the top of the crown. DPNs can be daunting since there are several (4 or 5) and full of points (8 or 10!). But once you realize that you still only knit with two needles at a time while the other needle(s) are holding places for extra stitches, you can focus on those two needles and not get too freaked out about what’s hanging out on the other needles.

Amy had no trouble making the switch and decreasing to her final five stitches. A few minutes later, after cutting the working yarn and running it through those final stitches, tightening, and weaving in the ends. Lo and behold, a lovely multi-colored, rolled brim hat!

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Good Thing I Enjoy the Process

October 13, 2013

In the past 5 years or so, I’ve come to realize that I’m a process knitter. I really enjoy the act of knitting. Don’t get me wrong — I like to finish a project, too. But I don’t have to wait for the end to enjoy myself.

This is a good thing because I regularly find myself having to tear out stitches rows and rows of a project. Take my latest sock (please). I had a feeling it was too big shortly after I finished the ribbing.

BigSock 

I tore it out and started again with 8 fewer stitches. Did I check the gauge? I think you know the answer.

Every time I picked up this somewhat smaller sock, I thought “hmmm, that looks kind of big.” But I reasoned with myself that I’d already started over with fewer stitches so it couldn’t be too big — could it?

Yes, it certainly could. And while the eventual recipient of the socks is an 18-year old athlete, he does not have elephantine calves or ankles.

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But I had carried on longer than was sensible because I was enjoying the process: turning the heel and knitting half of the foot. I finally got a grip on reality and decided to ditch the whole thing and start over.

UnwindingSock

Tearing out is much more fun when you use a ball winder. And you get a lovely ball of yarn…again.

Rewound

 


Taking the Plunge — again!

September 30, 2013

Four and a half years ago, I branched out on my own as a marketing communications consultant. I love the variety of the work, the flexibility in my schedule, and the ongoing learning about the industry and new clients. And I especially love my “commute” up two flights to the tiny storage room my office.

Two weeks ago, with a nudge from a friend (thanks, Kathe), I took the plunge into a new adventure — launching a knitting class from my home. I’ve taught classes before through our local community education program and loved the experience.

I emailed about 25 friends and neighbors and am so excited that, on Wednesday, seven adventurous, creative people (plus a 5-month old baby) will start class.

What are your suggestions for a terrific first (or second) knitting project?


Just not sure about the fit

September 28, 2013

I often recommend neck warmers or cowls as a first knitting project. They’re shorter than scarves, provide the opportunity for trying new stitches (garter stitch gets old really fast), and don’t have to fit in the same way that a sweater does. I’m not so sure about the Albers cowl, but I suspect it’s because I have a larger-than-most head.

The design is terrific, and I love the colors even though — or maybe because — they’re beyond my usual palette.

AlbersCowlFinish

But the size seems off — feels too big to wear just draped (or maybe I’m not very good at draping!).

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But wrapping it around twice required a bit too much stretching and pulling (I come from big-headed stock). Plus I ended up feeling quite choked.

AlbersNeck

If I make another, I think I’ll make it with 4 squares so I can wrap twice. Or, better yet, I’ll measure my squares to ensure that each is 12″ x 12″ rather than 11.5″ x 11.5″. That 1.5 inches can make a difference.


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