How to Reuse Ripped Out Yarn

February 12, 2016

Fearless knitting student Gillan wasn’t happy with her first attempt at the GAP-tastic cowl. She’d used a lighter-weight yarn than the pattern called for but hadn’t adjusted the number of stitches cast on. The result was a cowl that was too short and too snug when she doubled it.

She wanted to rip out the project and start over again but asked, “Will the yarn be shot?” No, indeed. While ripped out yarn, especially wool, will hold the shape of stitches, it needs just a bit of care — a soak and some careful drying — to help it recover and be ready to use for a new project.

Here’s how:

Wind the ripped out yarn around your elbow & hand so you have a large loop.

Place the loop of yarn into a “bath” of tepid or cool water and let it have a good long soak (at least 20 mins).

Lift the loop out carefully (so it doesn’t tangle). Place on towel and roll to squeeze out water.

Allow the yarn to dry while it’s lightly stretched. To stretch, hang the loop from a hook or arm of a chair and place a can (soup, beans, tomatoes) in the bottom “sling” to stretch the yarn.

drying-yarn

Let it hang until dry.

Here’s Gillan’s refreshed, rejuvenated yarn, ready for the second attempt.

wound-yarn

And the finished product — lovely!

2016-02-02 12.07.15


Another GAP-tastic Cowl

February 10, 2016

One of the most popular projects among my knitting students is Jen Geigley’s GAP-tactic cowl (or, if you prefer, infinity scarf).

The most commonly used yarn is the pattern’s suggestion, Lion’s Brand Wool-Ease Chunky, or its super bulky Thick & Quick. Being Fearless Knitters, though, my students sometimes substitute and create an adaptation.

For example, Gillan, who used a luscious, blue heathered GAP-tastic out of a yarn whose name she cannot recall. But it sure is beautiful.

2016-02-02 12.07.15.jpg


Starlight Gaptastic

February 8, 2016

As a non-monogamous knitter, I often juggle a couple few projects at a time, often ones that differ in complexity or portability. Socks that can be stuffed into a purse for knitting, without the need to consult the pattern, on the subway or waiting room (there’s a lot of waiting in life!). A shawl or scarf that requires regular or frequent pattern glances and more concentration.

When it became clear that I wouldn’t finish Hannah’s Chromatic Cowl by Christmas (or even Twelfth Night), I decided to cast on a quick GAP-tastic cowl (Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in Starlight).

Soft, chunky, and with a bit of sparkle…

Gaptastic-closeup

Just what a young actress needs on the cold streets of New York City.

MHD_gaptastic


Turning a Hat into Fingerless Gloves

February 6, 2016

For the past couple of months, I’ve had the great pleasure of teaching knitting to three 5th grade girls. We gather at one girl’s house and spend 90 minutes knitting, chatting (and listening) about sports, school, older siblings (ugh!),  and ideas for next projects. “Do you think I could make this?”  “How long do you think it’d take to make this?”

They all started on the same project: a garter stitch hat with bulky weight yarn. A simple rectangle that will be pulled on one end at bind-off and topped with a big pom-pom.

Last week, Brigid decided that she’d rather turn her hat-to-be into fingerless gloves. Why not?

After measuring her wrist, we realized the time – and length- were right. So I showed her how to bind off and then how to seam.

We marked the thumb hole, and she seamed up to that point. Then the top little bit and voila!

She was thrilled — and rightly so. The other two girls were appropriately happy for her and encouraged her to cast on the next on quickly “otherwise you might stop at one.”  So wise!


Soft, Color-Shifting Cowl

January 19, 2016

After promising an update when I finished my second Chromatic Cowl, I completely forgot to post the finished product!

In the intervening week or two since my back seat knitting, I completed the cowl and grafted the two ends together with the Kitchener stitch. I must be doing something wrong with my provisional cast-on because I ended up with an uneven number of stitches — fewer on the provisional/waste yarn end. However, I cast on one a couple and grafted.

Blocking, as usual, was a tepid bath in the sink.

chromatic_bath

Drying this airy creation took only a couple of hours. Although I’m not thrilled with the similar color values of the dark gray and hunter green, I love the gradual colors changes.

chromatic-cowl-green

 

chromatic-cowl-neck

 


“I Wouldn’t Turn Down Socks, Mom”

January 17, 2016

With the completion of the green-gray Chromatic Cowl, I found myself in the unusual situation of not having a Work in Progress (WIP).

As I pulled out some patterns, knitting books, and bits of my yarn stash, I mentioned my dilemma — or opportunity — to Michael. He thought for a moment and, without really trying, came up with a solution.

“I wouldn’t turn down socks, Mom.”

The Yarn Harlot’s Good, Plain Sock Recipe in 3p, 1k ribbing. Cherry Tree Hill Yarn’s self-striping “Fingerpaints” in Java Jive colorway.


A Gossamer Cowl

January 14, 2016

From the moment Rachel walked into my knitting class wearing her Chromatic Cowl, I knew I had to make one — or two. “Gossamer” was the word that popped into my head when I felt the soft, fluffy lightness of this cleverly designed infinity scarf.

chromatic_rachel

According to Merriam Webster: gossamer: (1) a film of cobwebs floating in air in calm clear weather; (2) something light, delicate, or insubstantial. I prefer definition #2 but quibble with the “insubstantial” bit.

It’s knit with three strands of Aloft, an airy blend of mohair and silk from Knit Picks. The gentle shifting of color occurs when a single strand is used up and you add another. For example, 3 strands of purple becomes 2 strands of purple and 1 lavender. When the next purple is used up, you knit with 1 purple and 2 lavender. Then 3 lavender, then 2 lavender and 1 gray, etc.

Being a fan of purple, I made one in lavender, purple, and silver gray. Here blocking on a dish towel. I wasn’t thrilled with the unevenness of the color shifts, the result of my rather haphazard divvying up of the yarn skeins. But overall, I’m very pleased.

chromatic-cowl-blocking

So pleased that I soon cast on another in green hues for my favorite red head. I borrowed Marcia’s kitchen scale to measure the weight (in grams) for the various balls.

aloft-scale

I didn’t finish in time for Christmas nor have I finished it yet. But I made some good progress while riding in the backseat as we drove north for a few days of skiing. I’m not a very good passenger, especially when the driver is one of my children and the weather is messy, so knitting really helped me stay calm.

chromatic_backseat

I’m nearly finished and will have an update after I graft the two ends together.

Until then, tell me what’s on your needles these days?

 


Treasures from Knitting Class

December 19, 2015

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love teaching knitting. One of the best parts is watching a knitter, novice or one with experience, work through a project — deciphering a pattern, fixing the inevitable mistakes, and finally finishing. 

First up, Debbie, a beginner whose patience, good humor, and perseverance are remarkable. She has an eye for her work, which means she can spot mistakes quickly. And, as I say in every class, every knitter — even the most experienced– makes mistakes. Debbie started with a small cotton washcloth, my go-to first project. She’s now working on a scarf (more on that in a future post).

 Next, there’s my down-the-street neighbor Marcia, who’s zipping through projects like a whirling dervish. (Do they knit?!) Her first socks were finished just in time for teen daughter’s birthday. As you can see, she loves them. 

 As the mother of two teenagers, Marcia’s become a late-night knitter whose found the soothing benefits of knitting while waiting up for the safe return of said teens. She recently completed a lovely and deliciously soft chromatic cowl. 

 In time for Christmas giving, Pam completed a dropped stitch scarf for her teen son. He’s not usually a scarf wearer, but after holding this soft beauty, he declared that he’d definitely wear this one. 

 Gillan, a fiber artist, has finished an exquisite sweater and hat for a friend’s child. Regular readers will recall Gillan’s sweater seaming challenge, which she obviously remedied.   I’m particularly fond of her choice of buttons, picking up on the fiery colors of the yarn.   I hope this gives you an idea of why I love these knitting students, whom I proudly dub “Fearless Knitters.”


A Lesson in Seaming

November 11, 2015

Fearless Knitter Gillan arrived at class Tuesday morning with her Flared Baby Sweater nearly finished. She’d ripped out the button bands after her first attempt and had re-knit to her satisfaction. 

But she wasn’t happy with her seams, which were bumpy and looked inside out. “What did I do wrong?” she asked.

 Turns out she hadn’t really followed the Mattress Stitch instructions that I’d thrown into her hand at the end of the last class. She’d used a whip stitch, which doesn’t lie flat, and had seamed stitches too close to the edge. 

Since she’d put a lot of work into this beautiful creation, she readily ripped out the side and arm sleeves and started again with a one-on-one Mattress Stitch tutorial.   

Although she felt her progress was slow (which it wasn’t, but it felt that way), she was very pleased with the results. This side-by-side comparison shows the difference. 

 
Next step – and finishing touch – after seaming will be button selection. I recommended 5 buttons of different colors, picking up on the fiery rainbow of the Gina yarn. What do you think? 


Hitchhiker on a Train

October 25, 2015

Yesterday I zipped down to New York City to see Hannah as Katherine/Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. 

As always when I see her perform, I’m awed by her talent. As her mother, I can’t help but be biased in my assessment, but she’s really good!

I took along my Hitchhiker to knit on the train. Almost done with the first ball (of 2) of Liberty Lite. 

  


Lessons Learned on Re-Sizing a Sweater

September 30, 2015

There are lots of online tips for making a too-big sweater smaller. But as I discovered when I had the opposite problem — a too-small sweater that needed enlarging — there wasn’t a lot of help. With a fair bit of in-person, online, and book research, I was able to figure out how to make Michael’s special sweater large enough to fit his 17-year-old body. I learned a few things along the way, about myself and about knitting.

  • I’m not afraid to rip back and try again, especially when making something complicated and very time-consuming. A lot of time and effort went into this sweater even before I discovered that it didn’t fit. I’ve knit plenty of finished items that didn’t turn out right and were abandoned to a drawer or thrift store somewhere. This time, I decided to invest the time and energy into remedying the situation.
  • Making a sweater longer is pretty straightforward: Rip or cut back the ribbing. Pick up the stitches (I used a lifeline for this bit), and knit!
  • Knitting in the opposite direction changes the orientation of the stitches. If you look carefully, you can see that the white “specks” point up or down, depending on whether they’re in the original body of the sweater or in the added two inches.
    stitches point in different directions when knitting in opposite directions
  • Gussets are pretty nifty inventions. I needed to add about 4 inches to the circumference of the sweater, so I made two two-inch gussets — rectangular from the ribbing to the underarm and then tapered over about 4 inches into the arm sleeve.
    gusset stitched into the side of a knit sweater to make it larger
  • I appreciate attention to detail but not enough to make the gussets fit the sweater pattern.
  • Wrapping a knitted gift is a wonderful thing!
    finished stranded knit sweater in gift box

    I’m delighted to report that the sweater fits — at least, that’s what Michael has told me! He’ll allow a photo “session” once the weather gets cooler. Of course, I’ll share.


Making a Too-Small Sweater Bigger

September 5, 2015

As I’ve mentioned previously, the sweater that I knit for Michael is finished but not done. What I really mean is, it’s too small. This may have something to do with his increase in size from when I started the sweater. At the beginning of the year, he was on the high school wrestling team and was pretty lean — for a six-foot tall 16-year old. But after wrestling season, he started lifting weights and training in anticipation of football and, well, he got larger — much larger — as in 35 pounds heavier (“increased muscle mass” is his phrase).

We both managed not to get too upset (well, mostly) when he barely squeezed into the finished sweater sometime around the end of May, an event I did not photograph. We agreed that it’s beautiful, but there’s no way he could wear it. Here it is blocking before sleeves.

front of nordic sweater blocking on bed

Kevin, who’s older but smaller than Michael, volunteered to take the sweater, assuring both of us that it would fit him just fine. How very generous! But I resolved to figure out how to fix it.

I consulted other knitters, looked through several knitting books, and searched online for “how to make a enlarge a sweater” and “my sweater is too small.” I settled on the following strategy:

  • take apart side seams
  • remove lower ribbing,  add 2″ to the front and back, and knit the ribbing (This involved using “lifelines,” a technique I’ve found very handy!)
  • knit two 2″ gussets to sew into the side seams, thereby adding 4″ to the circumference of the sweater (well, minus maybe 1/2″ total of seaming). The gussets are rectangles up to the underarm and then tapered to a point over about 4-5″. I hadn’t reached the tapering in this photo.

two rectangular knitted  gussets for enlarging a sweater

I’ll have to open the underarm sleeve seam for a bit and add the tapered part of the gussets there.

I really, really hope this works. Wish me luck!

 


Bermudiana Shawl Done!

August 25, 2015

Shawls always take longer than I expect. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since I’ve knit quite a few, but each time I’m reminded of just how long it takes to knit the several hundred stitches that make up a good “wrappable” shawl. How many stitches? For the Bermudiana, it was 463 — back and forth and back and forth and…

But now that the ends are woven in and the whole thing is blocked (a full-water block — I’m committed), I must say it’s lovely.

finished Bermudiana Shawl displayed on porch railing

I learned a few new things with this project: how to add beads (using a tiny crochet hook) and the i-cord bind-off. If you look very closely, you can see the gold beads in the lace “flowers” on the edge. They’d stand out better if I’d used the correct yarn for the lace edge, but I didn’t. Many thanks to friend Shelley, queen of the Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise, for giving me some of her yarn.

lace edge of Bermudiana shawl showing beads

The pattern called for an i-cord bind-off, so that’s what I did. Not sure I’d do that again soon. I’m not sure how much stability it adds and it’s a slow bind-off, which seems somehow unfair. By the time you get to the “I’m ready to bind off” part of a project, you’re ready to be done — and quickly. But I like learning and trying new techniques, so I stuck with it. Glad I did (even though I wasn’t so sure while doing it!).close up of i-cord bind-off along edge of Bermudiana Shawl


“Bermudiana” Preview

July 28, 2015

Sara Wolf, teacher on the marvelous Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise, designed a shawl especially for the cruise. Drawing on the sand, shells, and hibiscus flowers of Bermuda, the shawl features a scalloped lace edge (sand) and lightly beaded lace “flowers.”

Since I misunderstood the pre-cruise instructions for what yarn to bring for the edge (oops!), I had to borrow (permanently) yarn from a generous knitter — that would be Shelley, the brain behind Sheep Ahoy. I did have the Boboli Lace (#4352) for the main body, a blend of many of my favorite colors.

Boboli lace yarn, color 4352

I was not the only knitter who went off-pattern in my yarn selection. Thanks to the shopping prowess of #FlatBarb, Cathie was working with Sunseeker by Cascade, which has a lovely sparkle (zoom in to see the sparkles; they’re worth the effort). The colorway was Sand, not Oatmeal as several misguided folks thought it should be. Really, when have you seen oatmeal as dark as this?!

Lace edge and body of Bermudiana shawl in progress

On the last day of class, several of us displayed our shawls-in-progress. I love the variety of yarn and color combinations (but could do without the garish backdrop of the conference room carpet!).

Bermudiana_shawl_varieties


Knitters Not Knitting (At Least, Not All the Time)

July 24, 2015

The Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise (and all the non-knitting Muggles) docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda for 2 1/2 days, giving us plenty of time to explore and work on our shawls.

Mom, Cathie, and I walked around the dockyard, a former military installation that’s been converted to highlight historic, artistic, and tourist offerings. We poked around a couple of galleries, including one that had some whimsical found-art creations.

found art sculptures in gallery Cruise_Glass_Gallery

We rediscovered the yarn-bombed shrub that we’d seen two years ago. A bit faded and tattered but still there!

faded yarn bombed branches

Around the corner, we found a newly “bombed” light post.

yarn bomb light pole

One of the former military buildings houses a glass blowing studio and shop, where we paused to watch an artist creating dozens of little bee sculptures, which would soon be sold in the shop. Those aren’t pencils or paintbrushes in the box in front of him; they’re rods (sticks?) of colored glass.

glass artist at work

Another building houses a pottery studio and shop. That’s Mom, in her beautiful pink hat, browsing on the other side of the work space.

pottery studio and shop

The next day, we took a three-hour tour in a glass-bottomed boat, passing over coral reefs and an old shipwreck. The tour guides explained the types of coral, varieties of fish, and just how long it took for this particular ship, HMS Vixen, to be wrecked – deliberately so it would block a channel – in this particular location. Apparently there were several attempts. The bow juts above the surface.

bow of shipwreck Vixen

Looking through the glass bottom was awesome. That’s Mom’s head. Since she sometimes refers to herself as “your white-headed mother,” this seems like a good shot.

looking through glass-bottom boat

The boat anchored in a cove, so that passengers could go overboard and snorkel. Since I don’t have a waterproof camera, an above-water photo will have to suffice.

snorkelers return to the boat

Back on the ship, after showers and dry clothes, we knit before dinner. Afterall, it is a knitting cruise.

knitters in cruise ship stateroom

 


Knitting at Sea

July 20, 2015

Long-time readers of the blog know that this is not my first knitting cruise; in fact, it’s my third — last fall, we went to Canada and Maine and two years ago to Bermuda. Of course, even regular readers (some of whom are family) are a bit bemused by the notion of a knitter’s cruise. No, not everyone here is a knitter. It’s a huge ship, and there are 2,000+ people, which just about anyone would consider an over abundance of knitterly folk!

workers washing hull of cruise ship in port

Our 25 knitters had three class sessions between Boston and Bermuda. Teacher Sara Wolf has designed a shawl, the Bermudiana, especially for this cruise. It’ll be available on Ravelry this fall, so check back. She’s drawn on the sand, shells, and flowers of the island and has created shawl and scarf versions.

border variations in Bermudiana shawl

I prefer the top version in the photo because it shows off the lace and beading above the scallop edge, which I think gets lost in the lower (red) version. I volunteered to be a model for Sara, who was taking photos for Ravelry.

modeling the Bermudiana scarf

With a 463-stitch cast on and 12 rows of lace, it’s kind of slow going. So some of us gather in an upper deck bar for a pre-dinner drink, knitting, and conversation. Our fellow bar patrons are bemused.

Cruise_BarKnitting


Sheep Ahoy & We’re Off!

July 17, 2015

The fourth annual Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise has just set sail for Bermuda! Mom (Nancy) and I are on board for our second trip together. She’s a veteran of all four!

Dear friend Cathie has come from Vancouver for the adventure. We are very sad that fellow Canadian and dear friend Barb had to cancel because of a medical emergency. Perhaps you’ve heard of the children’s book and project, Flat Stanley? We’ve got a digital Flat Barb. She joined us for lunch today.

photo of Barb on iPad, sitting on lunch table

First knitting class is tomorrow morning. I hope to update regularly.


Throw Me a Lifeline (or Two)

June 17, 2015

Knitters won’t be surprised to learn that the definition of “lifeline” in most dictionaries, paper and digital, does not include this handy technique that has saved the life of many a knitter. FIguratively, not literally, of course.

But learning how to use a lifeline can enable you to finish a project, thereby “saving the life” of the project, and that should count for something! Last year, when the cuff of a sock was too tight for the intended wearer, a lifeline allowed me to cut off the offending section, pick up stitches, and make a new cuff.

In the past week, I’ve used lifelines to rescue two projects, Michael’s finished-but-not-done sweater and the recently started Old Shale Wimple.

Michael’s sweater is about two inches too short. It’s also too tight across the chest, but that’s a more complicated issue to be dealt with at another time. Rather than tear out the ribbing around the bottom of the sweater bit by bit — too slow and painstaking a task for me — I wove a strand of white yarn into a row above the ribbing, catching each stitch.

Creating a knitting lifeline by  inserting yarn into each stitch of row

With that row firmly held by the lifeline, I cut the ribbing off the sweater.

yarn lifeline holds row of stitches

And then picked up each of the stitches held by the lifeline. I picked off the extra bits of yarn from the ribbing side, so the stitches on the needle were ready to be worked. I’ll need to add two inches to the body of the sweater and then add the ribbing.

pick up each stitch from the knitting lifeline

The wimple’s rescue was similar but was necessitated by my carelessness in following (i.e., not following) the pattern. I’ll save the specifics of that adventure for another post, but here are the steps of the wimple lifeline.

lifeline inserted in knitting

picking up stitches with knitting lifeline

Learning how to fix mistakes is the key to finishing projects. And I’m getting lots of practice these days!


Curlers in Her Hair

June 8, 2015

For the past few months, I’ve been monogamous in my knitting, working on Michael’s sweater with the hope of finishing it by Memorial Day, when it’s still cool here in Massachusetts. The sweater is finished, but it’s not done. But that’s a story for another day….

In the aftermath of finishing/not-finishing, I’ve cast on two smaller projects, neither of which will have size issues.

Last fall, I bought a skein of Kidding Ewe by Done Roving Yarns at Bee’s in Bar Harbor, Maine. “Cherries Jubilee” is a yummy mix of reds, purples, and greens that will make a lovely cowl or, in this case, a wimple.

First 2 inches of Old Shale Wimple

Yes, “Maria” has been running through my brain.

Second project: “A Good, Plain Sock” in Berroco Sox. This pair for Patrick, who casually commented that I’d knit socks for everyone in the family except him.

Good plain sock recipe

What’s on your needles these days?

 

 

 


Sleeve Setting

May 6, 2015

I must confess that sweater sleeves make me nervous — specifically, the sewing of sleeves to the body and shoulder of a sweater. The seams along the length of the sleeve are easy enough since the stitches line up one-to-one. But as you approach the shoulder, the geometry gets a bit more complicated, with decreases that create shapely curves but can create challenges when it comes to lining up the sleeve to the sweater body.

So it’s no accident that the sweater pattern than I selected as the basis for Michael’s sweater has “flat top” sleeves, no taper, no sleeve cap. If I’d watched this terrific, clear, and helpful video from Knit Picks on how to set in sleeves before selecting the pattern, I may have chosen something different. Next time perhaps….

First step (after blocking all pieces, so really it’s the second step) is to line up the sleeve with the body and secure it. Some knitters use safety pins, clip-on stitch markers, or even paper clips. I prefer to tack — or tie — the sleeve to the body, taking care to line up the center of the top sleeve edge with the shoulder seam.

tacking sleeve edge to shoulder of knit sweater

It’s also important to be sure that the side edges of the sleeve extend equally down the front and back of the sweater. That makes an even armhole, but even more importantly, ensures that the sides of the sweater line up evenly when the time comes to sew those together.

close up knit sweater sleeve tacked before sewing

When I’d secured the sleeve to the shoulder, I asked Michael to try it on to see if the armhole was big enough. He carefully put his head through the neck, draped the cape-like garment over his shoulders — and the sleeve dropped right off!

Pro tip: be sure to actually tie the yarn that holds the sleeve to the shoulder. Gravity is everywhere and will pull off just looped yarn “tacks.”


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