Saturday, May 31, 2008


Because nothing makes me laugh harder than cute animals and fantastic captions.

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

more cat pictures

humorous pictures
more cat pictures

humorous pictures
more cat pictures

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What should you have in your notions bag?

While I was yarn shopping with Naomi on Thursday and she asked me what she needed besides needles and yarn, it got me thinking: what are the truly essential items that should never leave your knitting bag? What is just nice to have? Are some notions a waste of money?

So I made a list and took a picture of what is in my notions bag, which has all my essentials plus a few nice-to-have items.


Scissors. Just because the phrase "break yarn" is common knitting jargon doesn't mean you have to actually break it. My scissors are small embroidery snippers. Anything that cuts yarn will do, from scissors of all sizes to pendants that have protected blades. Those are nice for getting thorugh airport security.
Darning/tapestry needles for weaving in ends. I recommend a variety of sizes to accomodate a variety of yarn weights. Clover has a nice set that comes with a screw-top case. Mine is tied to my scissors.
Measuring tape. A regular ribbon-style tape is fine, but having a little retractable one is better when you don't want a three foot long measuring tape uncoiled and causing chaos in your notions bag.

You can get by on having just those, but I strongly recommend also having these:

Stitch markers. These come in handy for lots of things. I carry both ring and split-ring markers. Even if you don't need to keep a marker on for a pattern, casting on lots (50+) of stitches usually means counting to see how many you've done so far. Put a marker after a certain number of stitches and you don't have to count as much. Plain plastic and fancy beaded will perform the same function, so getting fancy markers is purely a matter of personal preference.
Pen/pencil. Making notations on patterns is great. Writing down your gauge on a yarn's ball band is better. I also like to keep track of row counts/pattern repeats with hash marks.
Crochet hook. Even the most experienced knitters drop stitches now and again. You can technically do it with a knitting needle, but it's a pain in the rear, especially if the stitch has dropped several rows. Hooking up the ladder makes a frustrating process a little easier.

I'd say those are the things you should really have. Now the extras.

Nice to Have:

Stitch holders. Many projects have times where you need to keep stitches live. You can have holders that are designed for this purpose or you can use a spare needle or other object that will work just fine. I like to use either holders or a double pointed need with point protectors at the ends.
Cable needles. Cables are fun. Like with stitch holders, you can use something other than a needle designed for this specific purpose, like a double pointed needle. You can also learn how to cable without using anything to hold those stitches.
Point protectors. You can stick some on the ends of dpns to use them as straight needles, cap your needles to keep your work from falling off, or cap both ends of a single dpn to use it as a stitch holder. The possibilites are vast.
Safety pins. Not only are these good to have all the time, they are extremely useful for knitting. They can be stitch or row markers, hold together edges of pieces for fitting or seaming, anything you can think of. If you can find them, get the ones with no coil because those can snag yarn. Come to think of it, safety pins could easily go under "essentials."
Bobbins. If you dabble in intarsia or other colorwork that requires you to work with several small amounts of yarn simultaneously, bobbins are nice. You can make little center-pull bundles that make bobbins unnecessary, but until one has mastered that, plastic or heavy cardboard bobbins are the ticket.
Graph paper. Sometimes you want to chart out written instructions or make your own design. Maybe you just want something to write on. Regular paper is fine for that, but because a knitted item is composed of a grid of stitches, graph paper is handy.

In my opinion, everything else is optional. Sure, some people might not be able to live without their Norwegian knitting thimble, but I doubt the majority of us need one. Having a needle sizer, a metal/plastic plate with holes of specific sizes, is nice for some things, but most of us use one so infrequently that we just use a friend's. On top of notions that are optional, there are the fancy versions of the basics: stitch holders that look more like jewelry, decorative tip protectors, bags that have various pockets and zippered compartments.

The sky is the limit when it comes to knitting accessories. Start with the basics, then start personalizing. A knitter's notions bag often reflects his or her personality. Practical but fun? Utilitarian and efficient? Colorful and pretty? As with all things knitting, the variety of notions available turns our art into expression and adds to the enjoyment we feel as we knit.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cute baby sweater!

little ribs 1

Isn't it lovely? In terms of technique, I feel that this is one of my best projects. I established my gauge well and made stitch count alterations accordingly to a pattern I found on Lion Brand called Glamour-Baby's First Cardigan. I chose this pattern because, due to the fact that it is composed of rectangles, it is very easy to alter the gauge.

The original pattern was five rectangles knit separately in garter stitch and sewn together. UGH. Too much seaming, too much garter stitch, too much boring knitting. I changed the construction of the garment to be knit in basically one piece. I used stockinette with ribs on the botton, cuffs, where the shoulder seams would have been, and along the front edges. I picked up three stitches where I wanted the ties and made I-cords. I think the ribbon makes it look cheap girly.

So I guess the only features of the pattern I kept were the overall dimensions, the tacked-down lapel, and the location of the ties. According to my knitting group, I have changed enough to consider it my own pattern and I should publish it. I'll have to go over my notes, but I think that may work. If you arrived at this blog entry from Ravelry or are otherwise knitterly inclined, please let me know in the comments if you'd like me to post my specific modifications and/or write a whole new pattern.

Next up: a matching pair of pants, then matching booties and maybe a matching hat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Simple Blanket

I designed a blanket for a friend based on one I saw at a local yarn shop. It's easy enough for a beginner but isn't boring garter stitch. All you need to know to make this blanket are the basics: cast on, knit, purl, and bind off. It also requires making a swatch to determine gauge, which is a good habit to foster with beginning knitters. I know a few experienced folks who should swatch more. *raises hand guiltily*

Anyway, here it is.


Ribbed Blanket

This blanket can be made in any size: baby, lap, throw, etc. Any yarn can be used, but the pattern was written with a bulky yarn in mind so that the blanket does not take forever to knit. Because gauge determines the number of stitches to cast on, knit a swatch as follows:

CO 24
Row 1: *k4, p4**, repeat from * to ** twice more
Repeat Row 1 until swatch measures 3” long
Bind off in pattern

Block swatch as the finished blanket will be blocked. Measure across and divide 24 by that number. This is your number of stitches per inch.

Determine how wide you want the blanket to be in inches, then multiply that by your gauge to get your total number of stitches to get that length. Round this number down to the nearest multiple of 8.

Blanket pattern:

CO predetermined number of stitches (multiple of 8)

Rows 1-5: knit

Row 6: k4, *k4, p4**, repeat from * to ** until four stitches remain, k4

Repeat row 6 until blanket measures five rows shorter than desired.

Last 5 rows: knit

Bind of loosely and block.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I love knitting baby clothes

Yesterday morning I found the pattern I wanted for a baby sweater and made some changes to it: gauge, stitch pattern, things like that. I cast it on when Peanut went down for her nap an hour or two after I did the math for the new gauge.

Today, about 24 hours later, I am working on the second sleeve. This sweater will be done completely fewer than 48 hours after it was started. The only reason it will take that long is because I decided to block it flat before sewing the seams so I'll have to let it dry overnight. But tomorrow morning I will have a cute blue baby sweater and I'll blog all about it with pictures.

Baby clothes: perfect for knitters with a need for instant gratification!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Why can't you block acrylic?

I actually didn't think of the answer to this question for months, which is enough to disgrace my biochemistry professor, really. The reason is so simple, so beautiful, that it really should have popped into my head long ago. Alas, it did not. But yesterday it finally did, so on the off chance you want to know why you can't block synthetics, keep reading. I don't get really technical.

First, a bare-bones lesson on proteins. Proteins are long chains of amino acids curled up on themselves. The the twenty-plus amino acids all have different things attatched to them. Some of those things can be very attracted to each other, which makes them stick together and affect the shape of the protein depending on where amino acids are on the chain. That's important because, from human hair to merino wool to fuzzy angora, fur is just a bunch of proteins strung together.

Now, a little about synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers are polymers, or long chains of molecules. Like proteins, actually, and many other things both natural and manmade. Chemically, they are both organic, or carbon-based. To look at the molecular structures or even just their molecular formula, there isn't much difference between some proteins and certain ploymers. That's why acrylic is so widespread in garment making: it resembles wool on a very tiny level.

The differences that are there, though, have a large impact on blocking. The molecules hanging on a protein can bond to each other in a couple different ways. These ways can be affected easily by heat and water. Ever curled your hair? If you've done it without resorting to getting it wrapped painfully on uncomfortable plastic rollers and doused in smelly chemicals, you probably used a curling iron or rolled it when it was wet and let it dry like that. Both methods temporarily alter the chemical bonds along the protein strings of your hair, which then alters their shape.

The same happens when you block natural fibers. Wet blocking and steam blocking do the exact same thing to the fur your item is made of that it would do to your hair: it forces the temporary rearrngement of bonds. Acrylic, on the other hand, no matter how much it feels like wool, does not have the specific chemical structure to form bonds with itself along the polymer string. It just slides.

So that's why you can't block acrylic. And why you have to reblock things after they get wet. Now here's the question I have: has anyone ever tried to give a wool garment a perm to set the blocking for all time? If they did, I bet it was really smelly. Wet wool + perming chemicals = YUCK!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Knitting ADD

I have decided that I have knitting ADD. I see a project or yarn that interests me and I take steps to start something. In April, I did lots of washcloths, socks, scarves, and cotton scrubbies. I have five projects on needles right now: two pairs of socks, two lace scarves, and a shrug.

Projects I am planning to start soon are more baby socks, baby pants, a baby blanket, a pair of wrist warmers, and the gifts for people at RAW. That doesn't even count the things I'd like to make for myself: another pair of socks and a mini Clapotis. I want to start all of them at one time! Alas, knitting ADD.