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!).


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.


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.”

Attention to Details

May 5, 2015

As I near the finish of Michael’s sweater, I try to balance the desire to hurry up and be done with it already with the desire to ensure that it’ll fit properly and look nice enough that he’ll want to wear it. Most knitters can recount clothing they’ve made for family or friends that never sees the light of day, remaining in drawers or closets somewhere.

Blocking before sewing is one of those important details. Plus, it’s fun to see the pieces laid out and lovely.

front of nordic sweater blocking on bed

Last night, when the 1.5″ neckband that the pattern called for was too high and turtleneck-ish for Michael’s taste, I calmly patiently carefully tinked* back several rows and binded off a 1/2″ neckband (K2 P2 ribbing). Much better, Michael declared.

close-up of knit ribbed neckband on sweater

Tomorrow, the sleeves.

* Tink = knit spelled backwards; the process of un-doing knitting stitch by stitch, rather than ripping out row by row.

Wash and dry knits

April 19, 2015

Via my wonderful friend Cathie, a lesson in the resourcefulness of knitters and the durability of knitting. Picture this:

Skilled attorney, frequent flyer, intrepid knitter Cathie in the airport lounge where she’s passing the time during yet another Air Canada flight delay. Cup of coffee and suitcase by her side. In a perfect example of the domino effect, suitcase tips, knocks over coffee, which spills into open knitting bag at her feet, soaking her knitted baby blanket.

knit baby blanket variegated yarn

After some choice words (I wasn’t there but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t silent during said event), Cathie calmly takes blanket to wash room, rinses in sink (cool water, of course), squeezes excess water, and returns to lounge,

where the beautiful blanket is draped over the offending suitcase to dry.

knit baby blanket drying at airport

Throw Down & Done!

April 8, 2015

There’s such a thrill to finishing a knitting project. What a wonder to see hundreds (usually thousands) of stitches, formed one by one, that become a one-of-a-kind creation. That’s part of the delight for me, something I try to convey to my knitting students — you’ve created something beautiful with sticks needles, string yarn, and your own skill, patience, and perseverance.

Regardless of the item created — a cotton washcloth, a pair of socks, a lace shawl, a scarf or cowl — and regardless of the various mistakes that occurred along the way (most of which were corrected but some may remain in the finished piece as “design elements”),  each is unique, beautiful, and made by YOU!

Which brings us to Kathy and her Crate & Barrel Throw, completed in yesterday’s class — all bound (binded?) off and ends woven in. The photo doesn’t do the throw justice — it’s soft (knit with 2 strands of lovely heathered gray wool) and has just the right amount of heft for cuddling under on the couch (while curling up with knitting, of course!).

Kathy Shows Off Finished Knit Crate & Barrel Throw

One of the other things that makes finishing a knitting project so enjoyable? Thinking about your next project!

Knitting Wirelessly

March 26, 2015

At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur (and no, I don’t know what a dinosaur sounds like), I’d just like to say how awesome it is to have the Internet as a tool in my knitting teaching and learning tool kit.

In a recent knitting class, Rachel was learning how to make a provisional cast-on for Knit Picks’ Chromatic Circle Cowl, a luscious piece that’s knit “lengthwise.” After I explained the point of a provisional cast-on — to be able to create a seamless circle so that the subtle color changes would “flow” — we found an online video tutorial. Rachel watched, followed along (with the occasional curses and snide comments) and paused, as long as needed to complete the cast-on.


The next week, Kathy decided her next project would be a Pineapple Tea Cozy (not a typo). Before she bought the yarn, I recommended she try the pattern by knitting a swatch with some spare yarn. The pattern looked simple enough, but as my mother says, “anything’s easy if you know how.” And we didn’t know how to decipher the instructions in this pattern.

Using Kathy’s phone and my laptop, we looked through Ravelry projects, searching for notes and tips. Then we searched for videos — “how to knit pineapple stitch” and the like — all to no avail. Then Kathy typed the instructions, “k4tog, p4tog,” into her search engine and discovered that the stitch is also called the “anemone stitch.” That was the breakthrough we needed. One click on a video, and she was on her way.


Eclectic Cowl

March 24, 2015

Until I made an Eclectic Cowl for my old long-standing friend Beth, I’ve never known the artist who created the yarn for my project.

Diane, aka Lady Dye, is a talented local fiber artist here in Boston. Her “urban-inspired yarns” are inspired, in large part, by street art. Her hand-dyed, multicolored yarns are simply exquisite and the colorways are delightful. My skein was from JP Knit and Stitch in Jamaica Plain.


The pattern is simple and shows off the color changes beautifully. It reminded me, in many ways, of the Yarn Harlot’s Encompass Scarf (one of my favorites).

Dear friend Beth, whom I’ve known and loved since we were in grade school in central Maine, says she just loves her birthday gift. Doesn’t it look great on her?!


Striped Socks…Belatedly

March 22, 2015

I gave more knitted gifts for Christmas last year than I had before. Usually I start around Thanksgiving, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that that’s not enough time to make more than a couple of items. I’m not a chunky knit, make-it-in-a-day knitter although I definitely understand the appeal.

Knitting whenever and wherever possible was my goal. Socks are great anytime projects because they’re small enough to stick in a bag or pocket and pull out anytime you have more than a minute to wait — just about anywhere. Like at the pediatrician’s office.


In a waiting room while Patrick had surgery… (He’s all healed, thanks for asking)


I just love this self-striping yarn, Opal Hundertwasser, which knits up beautifully — almost like magic.


OK, I got a few odd looks while knitting at a college hockey game, but I did my best to be a Fearless Knitter (as I tell my knitting students). A Fearless Knitter on a mission.


Handknit socks aren’t everyone’s first choice, but I’m doing my best to convert those folks one pair at a time.

Topping Off a Baby Hat with a Tassel

March 2, 2015

Gillan, a fiber artist who’s one of the Fearless Knitters in my weekly knitting class, made an adorable baby hat. Don’t you agree?

Simple Colorful Knit Baby Hat

Since it seemed a little bare on top, she asked for advice for some kind of finishing detail. She had crocheted a flat flower, complete with multi-colored petals, but that didn’t seem right. Neither did a pom-pom. Either one would have hidden, or at least obscured, the beautiful detail of the decreases on the hat’s crown.

My recommendation was a two-color tassel, which would provide a nice finishing touch while allowing the crown stitching to shine through. Knitting designer and teacher Lisa McFetridge has a helpful video tutorial on how to make a tassel. Lisa was the instructor on last fall’s Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise. (Doesn’t a Boston – Bermuda cruise in July sound pretty tempting right about now?! Check it out. I believe space is still available.)

Look what a difference this topper makes!

Easy Tassel on Knit Baby Hat

A Knitting Palette Cleanser

January 23, 2015

Just as when enjoying a big, complex meal, sometimes a knitter needs to cleanse her palette with something refreshing. I’m working on a sweater for Michael and am nearly done the second sleeve. But a couple of nights ago, I had the urge to finish something  — anything.

An early Valentine decoration fit the bill. Using DPNs and some of the red yarn for the sweater, I finished the first side in about 15 minutes. After soaking and blocking (I know, not totally necessary but I’m a creature of habit), I had this lovely wee thing.

small red knit heart

The next day, I knit its pair and, after a refresher on the blanket stitch, finished.

Finished small knit red heart

Aaaah, that felt good.


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