Archive for the 'techniques' Category


Knitters’ Day Out 2010

kdomirror.jpgOn the last Saturday of September, I (along with several friends from my local knitting group) attended Knitters’ Day Out, which I describe to non-knitters as “a knitting con.” It was held about an hour and a half from my house, so my friend Gina (who’d stayed over the night before) and two other friends left my place at about 6:15 a.m. in order to get there in plenty of time to check in at registration and do a lap in the yarn market before classes started. One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Central Pennsylvania College, where the event is held, is their version of motivational posters: the bathroom mirrors are inscribed to phrases urging students to “look professional” and “make a good first impression.”


kdobearlin.jpgThe market took up the entire first floor of one building, and I had several opportunities to walk through it. I paid a visit to the Bearlin Acres booth and had a lovely chat with the owner, who remembered the squirrel and oak mittens I made two years ago from yarn I’d won as a door prize from her. As usual, she had some amazing yarn on hand in beautiful colors. I managed to resist the urge to buy any (since I have plenty of stash yarn at home), but did buy two handfuls of roving from her, to try a needle felting project for the first time.


kdosteamvalley.jpgUnlike many people, I don’t go to KDO to shop. Most of the yarn sold there is available through other outlets (e.g., brick and mortar stores, online vendors), so there’s no urgency for me to buy it there. The stuff that does tempt me, however, is fiber that is hard to find elsewhere, such as this stuff from Steam Valley Fiber Farm. My photos don’t do justice to the color or texture of these yarns. I thought about picking up a skein or two, but decided not to because (1) I didn’t know what I’d do with it, and (2) I’ve resolved not to buy yarn unless I know what I’m going to do with it. (I learned my lesson after buying numerous single skeins at sales and watching them sit in my stash for years before I had no idea what to do with them.)


kdofreeyarn.jpgThat’s not to say I didn’t come home with yarn. I did. But they didn’t cost me a cent, because I was lucky enough to win a door prize: a $25 gift card from one of the vendors, the Colonial Yarn Shop. It turned out to be the exact amount needed to buy these two skeins of Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky yarn, which I’ll make into a scarf for Sylvia (who’s been asking for a scarf).


The main reason I go to KDO, though, is for the classes. This year I signed up for two three-hour classes: a morning one with Annie Modesitt, on knitting her Cocoon Circular Sweater; and an afternoon one with Kathy Zimmerman, on slip-stitch knitting. Both classes were great*, and Modesitt was hilariously irreverent. (I wonder how many of her students file complaints afterward.) I especially appreciated Modesitt’s opening speech, in which she said that when she’s talking everyone else should shut up. (And she pretty much used those exact words.) So often in these classes there are people who insist on chatting their way through the instructor’s discussions (making it difficult for everyone else to hear), so it’s refreshing when a teacher says she’s not going to put up with this sort of thing.**

Now to dig through my stash to see if I have the yarn I need to knit one of those cocoon sweaters…


*I have to admit I was a bit annoyed when Zimmerman opened her class by asking all two dozen or so students to introduce themselves, talk about how long they’ve been knitting, and describe what sorts of things they like to knit. Honestly, I don’t care about the other people in my class. I don’t mean that callously. It’s just that when I’m in a class that meets once for three hours, I want to learn about knitting, not listen to twenty or thirty minutes of introductions.

** I should also point out that Modesitt was a terrific teacher–definitely Someone Who Knows Her Shit.


A day full of knitting

I started this blog in early September 2005 (happy birthday, Blog!), originally intending it to be a place where I could keep track of my knitting by posting pictures and specs of various projects. Its scope quickly grew to encompass pretty much anything that interested me, but knitting still makes an appearance.

I haven’t written about knitting for a while, but I have been working on (and even finishing!) some interesting projects. I’ll write about those projects another time, but for now I want to write about an all-day knitting event I attended over the weekend.

Last year I attended Knitters’ Day Out (KDO) for the first time and had a wonderful experience, which I blogged about three months late. (D’oh!) I was able to go again this year and once again had a terrific time. All together, seven people from my local knitting group went; two went up the night before (they were teaching a class and had a free hotel room), and the five of us rode up together early in the morning.

Again, I took two classes.* My morning class was “Entrelac Basics” with Gwen Bortner. She is a professional knitting instructor–and boy, it really shows. She was very clear and very thorough, and she had the best knitting instruction handouts I’ve ever seen. I finally learned how to do entrelac, which isn’t as terrifying at it seems when you understand how it works.

And, even better, I learned how to knit backwards. OH MY DOG that is so cool. I can’t even begin to describe the coolness of it. Learning this technique alone was worth the price of admission. Basically, you do the purl part of stockinette from the back, so you never have to turn your work. This is handy for something like entrelac, where instructions might have something like “Row 1: K1. Row 2: P1.” All that flip-flopping your knitting back and forth can get annoying, but when you learn how to knit backwards, it’s all a distant memory.

(How is it that I never heard of backwards knitting before? It is so practical! And easy! Is there some Great Conspiracy to keep this hidden from the knitting community at large? Hmmmm!)

My afternoon class was “Double Knitting,” which was taught by one of the KDO organizers. (Each year at KDO they have three “celebrity” instructors, and you can take one class with one of them.) She was very nice, but the difference between her class and Bortner’s was pretty striking. When you teach knitting for a living and not just for fun, a certain level of professionalism and thoroughness isn’t optional. It also didn’t help that the afternoon class was full of people who just didn’t listen. I swear, in the ten minutes after the instructor told us to cast on twenty stitches (instructions that were replicated on the handouts she’d given us), at least half a dozen people asked how many stitches we were supposed to cast on. Argh!

Double knitting is pretty cool, too–and, like entrelac, not complicated at all once you understand how it works. It does move along pretty slowly, though, since you’re basically doing K1P1 across the length of each row–and across twice as many stitches as the row’s final length–so I’m not sure how often I’ll use this technique.

During breaks I visited the yarn market, which had maybe twenty or so vendors. Many of them sold yarn and notions that are available anywhere, but there were also quite a few purveyors of locally grown/spun/dyed yarn and fleece, and those were my favorite places to visit. When I stopped by the Bearlin Acres Farm booth, Linda, the owner, recognized me. “You’re the one who knit those mittens three times!” she exclaimed. She had enjoyed seeing the blog post and photos of those mittens–and was pleased to know that Sylvia loves them and wore them all winter long.

Linda had four skeins of yarn that she’d spun from Stansborough Grey fleece, and though the geek in me really really wanted to get these, I couldn’t justify the expense. These fingering-weight skeins were $30 each, but since I’d probably need two skeins to knit the socks I had in mind (which, for this yarn, would definitely be the Rivendell pattern), $60 for a pair of socks was just too much for my budget. (I should point out that rest of Linda’s yarn was very affordably priced; the price of this stuff reflects the cost of getting fleece all the way from New Zealand.)

I actually managed to avoid buying anything–well, anything for myself, that is. Toward the end of the day, I picked up something for Sylvia: twenty-five little felt balls in a variety of colors (with a bit more purple than anything else). She loves them! We are going to get some elastic thread and string them together into a necklace for her.
*When I told Sylvia what I was going to be doing that day, she said, “So it’s like you’re going to knitting school!”


Domino dishcloth

p7235631.jpgA few days ago I finished the dishcloth for my swap partner and hope to send it out to her within the next few days. She likes pretty much all colors and has a lot of Fiestaware in her kitchen, so I opted for yarn that includes lots of different colors yet doesn’t include migraine-inducing hues.

I really enjoyed working on this item. I learned two new techniques: domino knitting (which is loads of fun and mind-bogglingly easy) and doing a knitted-on I-cord (which is also loads of fun, but fairly time consuming–it took me about three hours to do the border on this thing). I had a little trouble at one of the corners, where I started and ended the I-cord. The instructions I had assumed that a hanging loop would be made here, but I opted to leave that off, so I didn’t quite know how to connect the ends of the I-cord. Overall, though, I am quite pleased with the result!


Domino effect

p7175573.jpgMy SP10 spoiler, Pixie, gave me a terrific book called Domino Knitting, by Vivian Hoxbro. I had mentioned the technique in a post but didn’t know much about it. I finally got around to trying the technique last week when I got together to knit with some friends. I decided to use good ol’ dishcloth cotton and cast on twenty-five stitches. I started with one square…

p7195577sm.jpg…and then decided to start a dishcloth (for my “Dog Days of Summer” Dishcloth Swap partner) using the technique. I’ve got one square (of nine total) to go, and once I add the border the result will be a bit larger than a standard dishcloth, I think. I guess it will justĀ  make the recipient extra clean!


End-of-winter knitting tidbits

For the last days of this winter (or for next winter, if you’re planning ahead), try these knitted pants for little ones.

Just in time for Easter (for those of you who celebrate it)–and for anyone who thinks that baby chicks are too darn cute–use this pattern to knit a whole flock of ’em.

This random stripe generator gives you an idea of what a stripe pattern will look like before you start your knitting.

When I get plastic shopping bags from the grocery store, I return them on my next trip there so they can be recycled. Lately, though, I’ve been hoarding my bags and cutting them apart to make “yarn” from them. (My plan is to use them to knit–oh, irony!–some sort of market bag out of them.) I made up my own technique for slicing and connecting the bags, but this one is much better.

If you find your hands or arms cramping up while you knit, you might want to give these square knitting needles a try. I bet they’re also useful for people who are tired of chasing after runaway needles rolling off tables…

The Spring 2007 Knitty has a great article on creating your own handpainted yarn. There’s some KnitPicks Bare in my stash that’s just waiting for me to give it a splash of color…

I’ve used the long-tail cast-on only a couple of times (when a pattern specifically required it), and I’ve never really cottoned to it. After looking at this video from Knit Like a Man, I may give it another try.

Via Craft, these skull-patterned stockings may interest those of you who want to get a jump on your Halloween knitting.