Category Archives: Knitting

Vote early and often!

I named this cowl Tammany because it is a Tweed Ring.   (History Nerd joke.)

tammany spotlight

Tammany Hall was the home of crooked politics in NYC in the late 19th and early 20th century, led by Boss Tweed.  But now you can vote early and often legally and for a fun cause.


The  Old Skool Cafe, a 1940’s styled youth-run supper club, is in the running for a Super Bowl commercial, courtesy of  Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest.  Old Skool made it to the second round, and you can vote for them EVERY DAY for the next two weeks.   I’m offering the cowl pattern free for the duration of the voting for those who vote.  I’m doing this on a trust basis, so please go vote if you download the pattern. And vote often!

Old Skool helps break the cycle of violence, crime and incarceration by meeting three critical needs: real-world skills, a sense of belonging and a support system. Learning every aspect of the restaurant business, youth ages 16 – 22, gain transferable work skills necessary for life success.

Imagine a safe haven for youth to learn and succeed. Imagine an incredible restaurant that satisfies both the appetite and the soul. Old Skool Cafe…Come hungry. Leave INSPIRED.

(I’ve never been lucky enough to eat there, but I hear the food is great.)

So vote, already.  Why should beer companies get all the attention?

Drive By with Lightning Bugs

Trip home to New Jersey.  Dramatis personae: Me, and a kid in the airport.  I was working on a baby blanket, with the project bag on the floor. (More on the blanket soon.)

“What are you doing?”  He seems about 4, maybe 5. “I’m knitting, making a baby blanket.”

He points to the yarn yarn trailing down to the bag .  “Is that a yo-yo?”  No, I tell him, it’s yarn.  “Yarn?”  Then the light of understanding shines in his eyes.   “Ooooh, so it’s a blanket for a baby cat.”

I was home for a family wedding, which was great fun, except that the mother of the bride had to leave right after the ceremony and have an emergency appendectomy.  Really, what are the odds?  The wedding was at a lovely B and B, former goat farm,  in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  It was  perfect setting when there are lots of little ones in tow – plenty of space to run around.  Wouldn’t you want to catch lightning bugs with this crew?

2013-07-12 14.43.05

Best lighting bug line?  My 9 year old great nephew told me the next one he caught would be named Bob.  “It’s kind of an old-fashioned name, but I like it.”  Catching lightning bugs was a regular activity of summer evenings in my childhood, but I rarely see them here in Minnesota. The other night my husband rushed in to tell me that Bob was in the backyard.

And crafting was all the rage.  Are Rainbow Looms a hot commodity where you live?  I received many of these snazzy rubber band bracelets:


A knitting student update: this guy is still knitting, two years later!


He told me there is a knitting club at his school and he goes every week.  “Some people (glares at his twin sister) say knitting is boring, but I like it, don’t you?”  His older brother scoffed that all Nick makes are squares and rectangles.  I reassured Nick that many, many knitters don’t get beyond squares and rectangles.  Nick also things we should write a knitting book together.  “But not now, because I’m on summer vacation.”  Whew, I thought I was going to have to squeeze that in!

Sewing in a set-in sleeve in a knitted garment – it doesn’t have to be painful.

Some time ago, I promised to post my method for sewing in a set-in sleeve.  I really don’t mind seaming a set-in sleeve.  In fact, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment when I’ve finished and it looks good.  It doesn’t even take that long.

When I learned to sew, I was taught to sew the underarm seams of the sleeves and the side seams of the main body of the garment before setting in the sleeve.  Then the sleeve was turned inside out and put inside the body of the garment (right sides together) so cap could be eased in order to fit into the armscye properly.

In sewing the sleeve cap in knitting, I leave seams open.  This lets me manipulate the pieces more easily and allows me to use my favorite technique, pictured. To me, the critical difference in a set in sleeve cap and other seaming in knitted garments is that the sleeve cap seam is not flat when worn, so it helps to work it over a shape something like a shoulder.  I use my knee:


Or, if you don’t enjoy bad posture sewing, you can drape it over the edge of an upholstered chair:

sleeve on chair

You could  roll up a towel and use it while sitting at a table enjoying good posture.   If you are the sort of well-stocked seamstress I am not, you could use a tailor’s ham instead.

First, I rarely block before seaming.  Blocking takes up precious time and space, and unless the stitch pattern requires it (lace, some rib/cable combinations) it doesn’t really help me much.  Stockinette will curl no matter what, that’s its nature.  So, skip the blocking, then sew shoulder seam (or do a 3 needle bind off if that’s your preference.)

Next, mark  the following spots for linging up the body and the sleeve using split ring markers, pins, tailors tacks, tie a bit of yarn on, whatever works or you have handy.  I’ll use yarn scraps if I don’t want to get up and get my other knitting bag that has markers and pins.  I am not an illustrator, but this should indicate how the sleeve fits in the armscye and where to mark.  Those spots are in green.

low tech how sleeve fits in armscye

low tech how sleeve fits in armscye

Fold sleeve in half, place a pin or marker in the center top, pin to shoulder seam.

Bring edge of underarm bind off up to center top spot you have marked, then mark for half way point, repeat for other side. Mark the same spots on the body, then pin together at the top, and the side spots. Coiless safety pins or split ring markers work well for this.

(Hopefully, you did the decreases two sts in from edge, it does make seaming easier.)

I start with two lengths of seaming yarn, starting one at each bound off underarm.  First sew vertical to horizontal (bars to v’s) then mattress stitch along the armhole.  (Pink arrows.) With mattress stitch, I sew a couple of inches on one side, then a couple on the other.  I alternate, checking for smoothness and to see that I haven’t veered off into another column of stitches.  Since the sleeve cap is eased in, you may not work 2 bars to 2 bars of mattress stitch.  I often work 2 bars from the sleeve, 1 from the body, then do 2 from the body.  Depending on row gauge, make your adjustment.  When I get to the first marker or pin, I ensure they match.  Then I work one side up and over the sleeve cap, so there is a smooth line there, without needing to join yarn or weave in more ends. ( At the top of the sleeve cap the seaming back to bars and v’s.)  I do two bars and two bars, but switch to two and one to ease in the cap.  I work the other side up and meet the seam, easing in as necessary.  The great thing about seaming in knitting is that it is so easy to undo a few stitches and adjust.  I can remember practically destroying some set in fabric sleeves, I ripped them out so many times.  (My mother would walk by and say, “Well Rip, how’s it going?”)

That’s it.  When I finish the seams and cuffs and finally block, I’ll post a picture.

And because I feel like it and Jocelyn asked, here’s a gratuitous foster horse photo.  Norwegian Wood?  IMG_1150

Photographing Your Fiber

And not the dietary kind.  I’ve mentioned Gale Zucker’s mad skillz at teaching, and now you don’t have to travel or be available on a certain date.  Gale is doing a webinar for Interweave.  This is a not the dry, messed up connection webinar of your working days.  (I dread them, thank god for knitting.) This is a perfect venue for Gale’s slides and discussions and Q and A.  I’ve subscribed, even though I have taken her class twice, because now I can have it and the notes for reference.  Plus, it is on sale! Go sign up.  (Please don’t take my photos as evidence, unless you’ve seen before Gale and after Gale.)  Gale did the photography for Wearwithall, and even people who are ‘meh’ about the book say it is beautiful.  These are two of my favorites that didn’t make the cut.

Wear With All Wear With All

Knitting with Cotton

One thing about the rain, it does help the garden green up.  Raindrops on Lady’s Mantle is one of my favorite spring sights, especially before the frothy little flowers come out.


The pink are petals dropping from the Prairie Fire Crab Apple.  The cool, wet weather has helped the blossoms last and on dark days the pink just glows.

In preparation for summer, I am making a summer sweater.  I have convinced myself that if I finish it, it may warm up enough to stop wearing wool socks and sweaters.


I am using Classic Elite Allegoro (linen cotton blend) to make the woman’s sweater from Wearwithall. I don’t think cotton or linen does well with ribbing, so I’m making the hemmed version.

The color is called Larkspur – it is a little more blue purple than the photo.

I have been working with cotton blends almost exclusively for the past month, and my body is starting to complain.  Do you find that working with cotton or linen is harder on your hands than working with wool?  Aside from the lack of give, or elasticity, I think I pull a bit more to get even stitches, and that little bit each stitch seems to be adding up.  My forearm is tight and my elbow a bit tender.

I have been giving the arm a break, doing a lot of reading on the rainy weekends, and  long, chilly, holiday weekend.  I finished three library books:  Night Circus, Gone Girl, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.  Three quite different books, but I enjoyed each one. They were perfect summer reading. ( In the Night Circus, there is knitting of red scarves, i’s own red scarf project.)

Do you find cotton or linen hard on your hands?  Are you reading instead of knitting?  Or reading while you knit?  That is the aspect of the Kindle I enjoy the most.  I can prop it up and knit while I read.  As long as it is simple knitting, of course.

Whipup – In Memoriam

If you haven’t heard, or weren’t a follower of Whipup, its founder, Kathreen Rickertson  drowned in a tragic accident along with her partner, leaving two young children.

Here’s information.   I have have been a reader since about 2006, and even corresponded with Kathreen.  The family was on a year-long adventure around Australia, the journey of their dreams.  To turn out this way is so very very sad.

Kay and Ann over at Mason Dixon Knitting had the brilliant idea of celebrating Kathreen’s life by posting a link to a favorite Whipup post.  I often used Whipup as a resource for all those Christmas presents I’d make with my godkids.  One of the best was quilted placemats made with leftover fabric from earlier years of giftmaking.  We had so much fun talking about the failed and successful gifts we’d done with the material.  (Oh, the stupid lunch bag!  Dad’s seat cushion for hockey games!) They still use the runner and placemats all the time.


Kathreen’s gift to all of us lives on.

There is a fund to help their children. Details are here.  I leave you with her manifesto:


Whip up is for experimentation, innovation, self expression and the sharing of information and ideas.

Whip up is against mass produced small plastic crappy stuff designed specifically to extract money from wallets, last less than 10 minutes and spend eternity in landfill.

Whipup is about taking time out of your hectic schedule to make. To make something by hand. And by making something by hand instead of buying it, you achieve personal satisfaction, then by teaching yourself and others new skills you will enjoy life more fully.

Whipup values time over money, values skills over things, and is for creating a space in a hectic life for making.

Whip up is all for the handcraft movement.

Some people say Whip up should be against frilled toilet roll holders, but I say if they are made with love then why the hell not eh!

Whip up is against such polarised views as for and against stuff.

Spring and Short Rows

I keep having songs like “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most  going through my brain.  It has been some crazy see-saw weather on the planet, no?  Two weekends ago we drove to Two Harbors MN on the glorious North Shore of Lake Superior for the 2nd Annual Knitting-By-the Shore-Retreat.  In the snow.  There was 22 inches of snow in Duluth.  In the parking lot of At Sara’s Table, a farm-to-table restaurant with great food:


Here’s the gorgeous setting:


a lovely bit from a walk I took on a chilly morning:


I taught a Short Rows Three Ways class to an highly entertaining group of fab knitters.  I also learned a thing or two from them, as happens in all good classes.

superior short rows

I’m going to teach an abbreviated version at the Yarnery on Saturday for one of their PopUp Classes.

“How do Pop Ups work? You show up at The Yarnery, Saturday, May 4, at 10:00am prompt (latecomers may not be seated depending on availability, and given the popularity of Pop Ups, it’s a distinct possibility). Bring some yarn and needles. No pre-registration, and all for only $5.00. As an added bonus, your purchases that morning are 10% off.”

If you are local, come on down!  Or if you are not local, come on down anyway!

Speaking of popping up, I came home from the North Shore to warmer weather, and a few goodies popping up in the garden:

Crown Imperial Fritallaria


Catkins on the Hazelnut Bush


and the first squill, which I loooove.  If it ever warms up again, maybe they will bloom.



Arm Knitting?

Perhaps everyone else has seen this, but I ran across it by accident while watching  some links via Kmkat on You Tube.  

There are lots of other videos about it, too.  I have a friend whose daughter is highly enamoured of finger knitting, but Mom is stumped on what to do with the miles of product.  (Can’t just throw them away when no one is looking, I guess.) Maybe use it for arm knitting?  I haven’t tried it myself, I’m more of a 2.75mm needle girl, I am.

Still, I’m pondering projects for kids —  a giant ball of t-shirt loops and make a rug?

March Went Out Like A Lion

Here we are – Easter Sunday. Lovely primroses over at Jane Brocket’s place. Here are mine:

Somehow my last post disappeared, leaving only the photo of my ipad doing the weather report, even after comments had been left.  Odd.  Bluestocking Knits pointed out that I could be grateful that I have more weather to wear hand-knits.  She is right, I suppose.   She lives in Southern California, where the season is short.  I have been wearing them.  My disappeared post showed the Cloche Hat.  I also finished Burr (Veronik Avery) at the end of February, and have worn it frequently.  I took it on a trip to DC about 3 weeks ago, thinking I might wear it outside as a light jacket. I wore it every day under my light jacket and still shivered.

IMG_1006 IMG_1007

I love the sweater. I decided this winter I would knit some sweaters from designers I admire, with yarn from stash.  The Thirteen Mile sport I used for Burr is wonderful yarn.  Soft, plant dyed and direct to you from Montana.  It is light but warm, a perfect weight to wear in place of jacket at the office.  I was introduced to this yarn when Gale Zucker asked me to design the Wolf Pack Hat in Shear Spirit.  I was also inspired to try and do Burr in the contiguous sleeve method that Susan Rainey used.  I have made several sweaters with the Barbara Walker method, and even taught a couple of classes on how to make your own.  Coincidentally, this one was on the dining room chair where I left it last night. Please don’t look at the rippled front band.  It is at least 12 years old, in Kureyon.


Not being the technical wiz and brainiac planner that Susan is, I got 3/4 of the way up the shoulders and realized that I had neglected to remove the seam stitches.  I had a four-stitch wide band up each armhole that looked ridiculous, even to me.

I ripped it out and did it the old fashioned way.  I don’t mind sewing set in sleeves.  I’ll have to do a post with my technique. It’s not elegant, but it works.

Any way, I love this sweater. There’s only a few mods I would make.  The shoulders are a bit big:

photo (4)

I made a combo of the large and medium, but added length to the body.  Details on Ravelry.