Tag Archives: Ravelry

5 projects from this knitter’s queue

27 Apr

Like many knitters, my eyes are often bigger than my stash. I have a huge collection of patterns – downloaded online and purchased in magazines and books – that I desperately want to knit for myself, but I just don’t have the time/yarn/money. Here are five of my favorite queued items just waiting for me to get my stuff together. I’ll start with the head and work my way down:

#1 Year of the Rabbit Hat, Betsy Farquhar

As the proud adopted mother of a house rabbit, I love all things bunny-related. This hat pattern came out in 2011 (the Chinese year of the rabbit) and has been in my queue ever since. It would only cost $16 for the yarn, but the problem here is that I need two sets of needles I don’t have, which would cost an additional $16. That makes this a $32 hat, which is just a bit steep for one small project. As I gradually acquire the right needles, this will move from my queue to my current projects. Link to pattern.

#2 Stripe Study Shawl, Veera Välimäki

Here’s another project that wouldn’t cost too much to make. I already have the needles and the yarn would only run me about $12. The problem here is time and commitment. Shawls are beautiful and cushy, and I love nothing more than having something to snuggle with, but they require A LOT of knitting. It’s a big undertaking to start a shawl, especially one that is entirely garter stitch. This beauty is 63″ across at it’s longest point, and with fingering-weight yarn those rows are a bit longer than I can bring myself to think about right now. I will definitely make this shawl, but I need to work up to it and come to terms with the idea that it may be a long-term project. Link to pattern.

#3 Larch Cardigan, Amy Christoffers

Isn’t it beautiful? I adore cardigans, and the simple design and structure of this pattern gets me daydreaming about crisp fall afternoons with crunchy leaves under my feet and a warm chai in my hand. Perfection. The only problem is I have a 40″ chest circumference, and that lovely drapey design of the cardigan doesn’t transfer so well onto my busty frame. Years of experience have taught me to be wary of anything with a roomy look, because I’ll fill that extra space out and be miserable. Since I’ve started running again I hope I can slim down a little and maybe lose a couple of inches around my bust line, which would make this cardigan a more realistic design for my frame. Here’s to hoping. Link to pattern.

#4 Dimorphous Mittens, Miriam L. Felton

These neat little mittens actually have two parts: The inner mitten, knit in fingering-weight yarn, and the outer, button-on mitten, knit in sport or DK-weight yarn. This means I could knit a single inner mitten and several outer mittens to change the color combinations and overall look. I don’t have a good reason to explain why I haven’t knit these yet. They’ve been in my queue forever, I don’t really want any mittens more than I want these, and they wouldn’t be expensive to make. This project just keeps taking the back burner to my other knitting whimsies. Poor mittens. I’ll make them someday. Maybe. Link to pattern.

#5 Ellington Socks, Cookie A

The Ellington Socks is one of the first sock patterns I bought after I knit my very first pair of socks last year. I quickly realized I had bit off more than I could chew. Cookie A is a sock genius, and just like you need to know more than basic addition to understand what Einstein was talking about, I needed to log several more hours learning how to knit socks before I could understand Cookie A’s charts. The thing about Cookie A is that there are several things going on all at once with her patterns, so you really need to be vigilant and have a firm grasp of basic sock construction to identify if you’ve taken a wrong step somewhere. Now that I have developed those skills and even knit another of her patterns (Cusp), I’m just waiting for the perfect yarn for these Ellington Socks. I want something with that hand-dyed look in a brilliant raspberry (like pictured), peacock blue, or grass-green color. The selection of vegan sock yarns is pretty dismal, so I’ll continue to keep my eyes peeled. I know I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than spectacular yarn for this spectacular pattern. I’ve definitely held it on a pedestal for that past year, and I’m not ready to pull it down just yet. Link to pattern.

What patterns are in your queue? I’m always looking to get distracted from my plans.

Knitting: A beginner’s guide

6 Feb

Franklin Habit creates hilarious knitting cartoons and posts them to his blog: http://the-panopticon.blogspot.com/

So, you want to learn how to knit?

Your knitter friends parading about in their handmade hats, socks and sweaters has finally gotten to you, and just like teenagers drawn in by the pure sex appeal of cigarettes, you too are about to embark down a road toward addiction. You are about to pick up for first set of needles, your first ball of yarn, and learn how to knit.

Speaking as a yarn addict, I can’t whole-heartedly caution you away from this lifestyle. The idea of having another person to chat to about new patterns and seek emotional support from when the same patterns take a horrible turn is irresistible, but it seems only fair to warn you that your life will likely take a turn for the fuzzy in the coming months. Here are some things to look forward to as you begin your descent down the knitter’s path:

  1. You may begin to lay awake at night, trying to decide between succumbing to much-needed sleep, or trying to bang out a few more rows on that washcloth you’re practicing with.
  2. You will begin to notice just how many things in your life are knitted. Suddenly the careful examination of your favorite T-shirts, sweaters and curtains will have people around you convinced that you must be trying to find microscopic bugs on your clothes.
  3. Once you understand the stitch-work behind all of your own clothes, you will begin to grab the clothing of the same people who thought you were covered in bugs. On the plus side, when you encounter another knitter, they won’t mind at all that you stroke their sweater while you talk. Everyone else will likely have a problem with this habit.
  4. You’ll begin to lose a bit of control with your beginner yarn/supply budget. The worst thing about learning to knit is accumulating all of the necessary supplies. Once you have the right stockpile you can tackle just about any project, but in the first year it will seem you are constantly buying yet another pair of slightly different needles (or your fifth measuring tape).
  5. Your significant other will announce a moratorium on yarn-speak at the dinner table. They aren’t doing this because they don’t love you, they’re doing it because they have no idea what you’re talking about and they really just wanted to know about your day at work.

Knitting will gradually begin to invade different parts of your life. You’ll find yourself knitting while watching television, knitting while waiting at the doctor’s office, knitting while waiting for the water to boil even though you should actually be chopping vegetables.

This initial push may seem like a bit much, and there will be plenty of times when you want to just put down your damn needles and declare knitting a failed experiment. But I entreat you, don’t. The reason you want to knit all of the time is because you are excited. You’re excited that your fingers are developing the muscle memory associated with each stitch. You’re excited because you are investing hours of your life into something, and you have an item to show for it! You’re excited because with every stitch you’re a fraction of an inch closer to being that girl (or guy) that knits her own hats, and they look so much cooler than everyone else’s store-bought hats.

Getting started with knitting is a big undertaking. You can launch off like a rocket straight into garment making, or you can be like me and take two years to master the knit and purl stitches, then snowball out of control into advanced techniques.

As you embark on this exciting and dangerous path, here are some items I think you’ll need to get started properly:

  • One set of size US 8 bamboo straight knitting needles (yarn fibers cling to bamboo, making your stitches less likely to slip off the needle as you learn the proper hand motions. As you gain more control, you can graduate to metal needles for speed, or stick with wood.)
  • A couple of skeins (or balls) of worsted-weight yarn. This is the most common weight of yarn and what many beginner projects require. Wool is a very forgiving fiber and a favorite of beginners. Cotton is not as flexible, though it is softer on your hands. As a vegan, I would recommend Berroco Comfort. This is a nylon/acrylic blend that is stretchy, affordable, soft and machine washable.
  • Scissors (any kind will do, but small crafting pairs are very convenient)
  • A knitting bag. There are many companies that produce bags specifically for knitters. I personally have a Namaste Vintage Knitting Bag (discontinued), along with many other small project bags and some large handmade bags from my mom. What’s important in a bag is that you can hold a variety of items in it. Until you know exactly what you need in a bag, consider using a simple canvas tote.
  • Tapestry needles. These look like large sewing needles, and are used to weave in loose yarn ends when you finish a project.
  • A stitch dictionary with visual aids. I recommend Super Stitches Knitting, but there are many stitch dictionaries available and they will all be helpful as you get started and expand into new techniques.
  • A ruler. Any ruler will do to begin with, but eventually you will need to buy a 60-inch measuring tape to track your progress on projects.

With your supplies compiled, you’re ready to begin. There are many ways to learn how to knit. I tried using books and videos, but it took sitting down with a friend to really wrap my head around the basic techniques. You may have friends who would be willing to teach you for a small bribe of yarn or some beer. Check into your local yarn shop (LYS) as well. It’s important to support these local businesses, because they offer a lot of personal assistance, classes, and camaraderie in the knitting community that you can’t get at a big-box crafting store. This is also where you’ll find the good yarn, needles and other supplies as you expand your collection. (Keep in mind that there are two ways to knit: English and Continental. This all has to do with which hand you hold your yarn in, and if you learn some techniques from one person, there’s no guarantee the next knitter you talk to will knit the same way. I personally knit in the Continental method and I love it, but you hear compelling arguments for both techniques.)

Cotton washcloths are a popular beginner's project. You can practice your new techniques with inexpensive yarn and gift washcloths to your friends and loved ones.

Another invaluable tool for the new knitter is the Internet. There are more websites offering patterns, assistance, tutorials and support than you can imagine. Here are some of my essential knitting-related websites:

  • Ravelry. This amazing, free, social-networking site offers personal profiles, the ability to connect with friends, thousands of patterns (free and paid), forums and so much more. I use Ravelry for every knitting project I start, and I’ve learned a lot from the new friends I’ve found there.
  • KnitPicks. KnitPicks is a shopping website that offers quality, affordable yarn, books and knitting supplies. I bought my interchangeable circular needle set from KnitPicks, which is an essential item for any knitter these days. KnitPicks also offers a great podcast with reviews of books, yarns, supplies and tips on techniques.
  • Knitty. Knitty.com is a free online knitting magazine. You’d be amazed at the quality of some of the patterns on this site, and you can also explore technique tutorials and read articles and product reviews.
  • The Yarn Harlot’s blog. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot) writes knitting- and feminism-themed humor essays. She is a knitter extraordinaire and pattern designer in her own right, who has put out several New York Times Bestseller essay collections and other knitting books. You can keep track of her exploits many days of the week on her blog.
  • Knitting Daily. This site offers great eBooks, patterns and a useful newsletter.
  • YouTube. Just about any knitting technique I’ve had trouble with has a video tutorial posted on YouTube. This is such a great tool to use when you hit a rough patch in a pattern.

These lists may seem overwhelming, but keep in mind that there’s about $50 worth of supplies that will help you get started, and all of those websites are free! As you expand into more complicated patterns and techniques, you’ll certainly need to pick up more supplies, like my interchangeable needle set. But for now, you’ll have everything you need to make some awesome garter-stitch scarves.

As you start down this path toward yarn addiction and good fashion sense, don’t forget to check your local library to find knitting books and other materials.

It can be hard to get going at first, but learning to knit is a series of baby steps toward a very steep hill. Once you hit that downslope there will be no turning back, but I’ll be waiting for you at the bottom, all tangled up in my yarn.

This post is dedicated to my good friend, Courtney. See you at the bottom.


10 Feb

This heel uses the Eye of the Partridge technique, a bit more feminine, but just as sturdy as the standard flap heel.

I have been, over the years, an unsuccessful blogger. I don’t even know how many blogs I’ve started with the same zeal I begin a new gym routine that will be sure to get my into bikini shape within weeks, only to fall out of posting and caring, along with skipping the gym.

However, this time I think I might make it work. Though I am a knitter of limited resources and can’t buy all the thick, soft sweater yarn or even afford to make scarves very often, a single skein of sock yarn is often within my budget.

After months of wishing and hoping I would someday acquire the knitting skills to take on socks, I launched into my first pair as a gift for my mom. (The fact that they are a gift was sure to keep me knitting, rather than adding another UFO to my already crowded shelves.)

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that – along with some good beer and encouragement from the Yarn Harlot (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee), knitting socks isn’t that hard. Not only is it not very hard, but it’s addictive and rather exciting. Turning a heel seems like a giant accomplishment, though after waving my sock around for awhile explaining to my husband that he should be very impressed, I began to feel more humble about the act. After all, I did use a pattern.

The pattern was chosen after the yarn, and the color after the pattern, which worked out better than could have been expected. I love lace and had access to Berroco Comfort DK (DK/Sport) at my favorite local yarn shop, Loopy Knit/Crochet. After searching Ravelry for appropriate – and free – patterns, I decided a nice purple would work well with the natural, water-type theme of the socks and my mom’s personality. The socks are River Rapids by Sockbug.

I learned several things during my first foray into sock knitting:

  1. My Barnes and Noble Nook stores pattern PDFs wonderfully and paper is so 20th Century.
  2. Magic Loop may not be as elegant as DPNs, but is extremely easy to learn with the help of some YouTube videos and turning a heel on two needles beats the hell out of three or four.
  3. Turning a heel is exciting and gratifying.
  4. Grafting a toe with kitchener stitch is about the only thing more exciting and gratifying than turning a heel.
  5. It is possible to love an acrylic/nylon yarn.
  6. It’s so possible to love than yarn, that you buy more to make yourself a pair of socks next.

Completely done, with Nook light in the background. River Rapids sock pattern by Sockbug