Saturday, October 30, 2010

Slice of Pie Square Knit Along

Each month I put a quick square knit along in the Karma Knitting newsletter.  The response has been good, so I thought I'd add it to the blog.  I write it out because many of our knitters dislike knitting from charts. I'll post a picture when I finish a full-sized version of the finished product.  If you make this, please let me know.  Send pictures!  Enjoy!

Cast on 38 stitches on size 7 needles with worsted, or 5's with DK.  Worsted finished size is approximately 8x8 inches.

Rows 1-5: K across
6-12:K3, P32, K3 even rows, K across odd rows
13:K11, P21, K6
14:K3, P8, K2, (p1, K1) 9x, K1, P3, K3
15:K6,(P1, K1) 10x, P2, K10
16: K3, P7, (K1, P1) 11x, K1, P2, K3
17: K5, P1, (P1, K1) 10x, P3, K9
18:K3, P6, K1, (K1, P1) 11x, K1, P2, K3 
19:K6, (P1, K1), P2, K8
20:K3, P5, (K1, P1) 11x, K2, P3, K3
21:K5, P1, (P1, K1) 11x, P2, K9
22:K3, P4, K2, (P1, K1) 12x, P2, K3
23:K5, P2, (K1, P1) 5x, K3, P2, K2, P8, K6
24:K3, P1, K3, P1, K1, P5, K2, P2, K6, P4, K5, P2, K3
25:K6, P2, K2, P4, K14, P1, K4, P1, K5
26:K3, P2, K1, P3, K1, P19, K2, P4, K3
27:K8, P1, K18, P1, K1, P1, K2, P1, K5
28:K3, P3, K2, P2, K1, P11, K2, P4, K1, P6, K3
29:K10, P1, K5, P3, K7, P1, K4, P1, K6
30:K3, P3, K1, P4, K1, P5, K2, P7, K1, P8,  K3
31:K12, P1, K12, P1, K4, P1, K7
32:K3, P4, K1, P2, K1, P2, K1, P10, K1, P10, K3
33:K14, P1, K9, P1, K3, P2, K8
34:K3, P5, K1, P5, K1, P7, K1, P12, K3
35:K16, P1, K5, P1, K5, P1, K9
36:K3, P7,K1, P2, K1, P2, K5, P14, K3
37:K21, P1, K3, P2, K11
38:K3, P9, K1, P2, K1, P19, K3
39:K22, P1, K1, P1, K13
40:K3, P11, K1, P20, K3
41-46:K3, P32, K3 odd rows, K across even rows
47-50:K across
Bind off. Weave in ends.  If pattern is not clear on square, block item.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Month End

Halloween is fast approaching, and so is the end of the month.  The newsletter is due out, the new classes need to be finalized, and the changes at the shop are about to begin.  I'm still studying my brains out and being a mom, and I'm a little frazzeled.  Sorry for the lack of news in the last few days.  I'll be back in the saddle soon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Late For School

This morning I  awoke to a knocking at my bedroom door.  My teenage daughter stood there, frustrated that her school bus hadn't come.  This has been an intermittent problem this year.  She wanted me to give her a ride.  The steps were cold on my bare feet as I came donwstairs to assess the situation.  The clock read 7:08.  She could easily make it if she walked.  Her response to this suggestion was that it was too cold.  It was 52 degrees. 

"Dont you have a warmer coat?"

"They're at Daddy's."

"A hat or mittens?" I thought this was really a stretch, but if she's cold, she's cold.


I have knit this child several hats, multiple mittens, a  few scarves, and more.  Her father has purchased several from the store.  She has more winter accessories than most people have socks.  I heaved a sigh of frustration and mild sleepiness.  Then I dug in the closet and gave her a pair of my fair isle mittens.  She went off to walk to school, and I immediately started to wonder whether my handmade mittens would end up in the same black hole as all her other missing accessories.  It's frustrating.  After school today she'll be digging out all her "missing" knitwear so she won't have to borrow from me anymore.  I should photograph it just to prove to myself that it exists, and that I didn't hallucinate it all.  I can give her the picture the next time she tells me she doesn't have any hats or mittens. 

By the way, I talked to the school.  She was late today.  AAAAAARGH!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Color Confidence

Sometimes when I want to make a colorwork pattern I have a hard time deciding what colors to put together.  A two color fair isle sweater looks great in black and white, or most any color and white.  What if I don't want white? What if the yarn I like doesn't come in the colors suggested in the pattern?  What if the colors I choose are great, but the garment doesn't go with anything I already own?

Different colorwork patterns require different color relationships.  A two color geometric might need contrast, but an intarsia flower may do well in more similar color values.  Maybe you need funky colors, maybe traditional.  One thing that helps me is to use colors from something I own.  A bookcover may have a terrific two-color contrast, a teacup may have a nice group of colors; even furniture upholstery works beautifully.  Or, just break out the crayons.  Really! They're portable, so find the colors you like and take them with you to the shop.

The yarn store staff is usually happy to help.  Ask if you can return or exchange any unused skeins if you change your mind.  Color is one of the great joys of  knitting.  Go get some!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Changes Afoot

A great day at the knit shop yesterday.  Most importantly, Paula gave me a loaf of her amazing Amish bread!  Very little will soothe the troubled soul or delight the happy like this bread.  Usually she just brings a loaf for the shop.  The world seems like a better place today with that bread in my tummy...

The LYS owner and I had a good visit yesterday and solidified some of the changes we want to make in the shop for the holiday season.  (We'll make the changes on Sunday and Monday, and re-open on Tuesday.)  It'll be a long couple of days of work, but it'll be worth it.  Furniture's moving, paint is changing, inventory is changing, hours are changing, staff is changing, and more.  Woo Hoo!  It's so cool when someone you love gets a makeover, even when it's a yarn shop.  :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Great Free Slipper Pattern

I got up this morning to discover that my dog had eaten one of my favorite pairs of shoes.  I hate shopping for anything but yarn, so I am deeply bummed that I need to replace these!  Since I don't know how to knit shoes, the shopping seems inevitable.

There is one bit of bright side here, though.  It got me to thinking seriously about what makes a good slipper.  (It's a footwear thought process...)  First, it would be one my dog would never be tempted to eat.  Second, it would be really comfy but durable.  Third, I would be able to knit it from my stash.  This pattern from Crystal Palace yarns for Perky Puffin Slippers almost escaped my notice because I thought it would look like the bird puffin.  Thankfully it does not.  These slipper sox are lovely, and suitable for man or woman depending on the color used.  I think if I make them I'll put a vinyl sole on them.  Leather seems a little too tempting to my four-legged friend...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What's Next

I'm trying to figure out what classes to offer next.  Things that have been popular in the past?  Something new?  Advanced techniques or something simpler?  A specific project or a skill with a wide application?  Seasonal for today, or something for next season?  Yeesh!  So many possibilities!

What if I offer cables?  Do I choose a pattern with cables in it?  Or do I teach the principles of cables and leave the pattern choice to the students?  Basic cables or reversible cables or cables that make intricate knots and weaves?  Usually when I teach a class the students leave with a swatch made in class that contains all of the techniques needed for the project.  Other teachers will offer multiple classes, and say "For homework, work until you start the decrease for the armhole.  We'll pick it up there next week."  Decisions, decisions.

Since the next several classes will be free, price won't be a factor.  What kind of class do you like?  What would you like to learn next?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mr. Socks

He never did take them off, so I had to photograph them on his feet. Maybe I can wash them while he's sleeping...


Yesterday was my 3rd wedding anniversary, and it was lovely. I aced an exam, hung out with my knitting, and had a beautiful romantic dinner with the Mr. to top it all off. Was it made better because Mr. was wearing the socks I knitted for him? Let's just say it didn't hurt.

I finished cabled mitt number 1 for my daughter, and continue to love both the pattern and the yarn. Cascade Greenland really rocks for garments you need to be durable. This isn't a super soft yarn, but it's totally not itchy, really high twist with nice loft, and gorgeous stitch definition.  The new mitt is on the top, my old one is on the bottom, both in Greenland.
I'm a bit behind where I want to be on the holiday knitting front, mostly because I keep adding things to the list (like cabled mitts for my daughter). And that I'm not a really fast knitter. And that two knitting hours a day is maybe less than I need. And I mostly want to make things with a zillion stitches, like socks. I need to sleep less or plan better. Plan better. Karma is biting my gift-giving butt!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ripping Out the Mistakes

Last night I finished the socks for the Mr.. I put off the Kitchner stitch for as long as I could stand, but eventually got the peace and quiet to focus and do it. An hour later, they were on his feet. If he ever takes them off I'll try to get a photo. (Since he's a pro photographer I always feel silly taking my own pics. His are so much better!) Somehow shooting knitting stuff isn't on the top of his list, so I'll get to it myself.

I then knit my daughter's cabled mitts for a while. I reversed a cable by accident and had to rip out and re-knit the rows affected. It got me to thinking that this is one of the many cool things about knitting - you can fix your mistakes and make them invisible really easily (assuming the yarn quality is good enough that reworking it won't show.) It's another Karmic step, I suppose, to recognize your errors and strive to correct them, but in most of life they're still detectable in some way. I like the fact that a finished piece of knitting always represents lessons learned, and it isn't obvious how recently they were learned. If I'm feeling too cocky there's always the next pattern waiting to see if I'm paying attention, and I'll trip myself up if I'm not. I just keep trying to pay attention...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

High End Fibers

Why are high end fibers sold in such small skeins? 80yds doesn't seem like nearly enough to accomplish most projects, right? A sweater usually runs 1400-2500 yards in worsted or DK. More common fibers come in skeins of 200yds and more.

Smaller skeins mean you have to buy more of them to complete a project. But you can buy closer to the exact amount you need. If you're paying $60 for 80yds of cashmere, you don't want to buy much overage! If you're making a project that requires 1100yds of fiber, in wool you'd buy 6 200yd skeins and end up with 100yds left over. In cashemere, you'd buy 14 skeins, but you'd only have 20yds left over. At cashmere prices, less left over is more appealing. Who wants to spend that much money on extra?

One thing that makes these small skeins really cool is that you can use luxury fibers as accents (collar and cuffs, for example) or for small accessories without the large investment involved in a whole sweater. They also make great yarns for gifts or gift projects. Try 'em next time you're in the mood for a splurge.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A coat for the season

I'm always on the lookout for great seasonal patterns to share with our customers and readers, and am often impressed at the "oldies but goodies" found in old magazines. From back issues of Life in the 40's to Ladies Home Journal in just about every decade, there are wonderful vintage patterns that are as relevant today as they were the day they were published. A great example is this Vintage Coat Sweater. Done in a conservative color it would be a great fall addition to your outerwear wardrobe. Done in a more trendy color, maybe with a belt, it would be a great gift for a teen. Change the personality of the buttons to make it funkier or more stately.

The thing that throws many knitters for a loop when looking at old patterns is the vintage yarns are often no longer available, and are often listed only in weight, not yardage. While these are inconveniences, they are not problems. The LYS staff will be able to help in any of these situations. Bring the pattern in to the shop, and let the staff guide you.

Don't want to ask for help? That's fine, too. Take the needle size in the pattern and consider the usual yarn weight associated. (Size 7 usually works worsted weight, 13 usually works bulky, etc) Read a few ball bands to get an idea of standard yardage-per-ounce ratios in that fiber. (Remember wool, cotton, silk, and synthetics average very different yards per ounce!) Pull out your calculator and do the math. If a pattern calls for 10 oz of worsted weight wool yarn and the standard yards per ounce is 70 yds, you need 10x70=700 yards. Once you know the yardage, you can change the fiber if you wish. Just make sure to get the yards recommended for the original fiber and you're good to go!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Newsletter, shop changes, help nights

It's Monday morning, and I've just released the October Update newsletter. (At our shop we issue newsletters twice per month.) After writing 40-odd of those newsletters it's a challenge not to repeat myself most months, but this month was easier than most. There's a lot going on at our little shop.

We're reorganizing to feature new and different products, we're putting great stuff on sale, and we're extending our hours. It's our busiest time of the year. We love seeing all our friends cozy up at the fireplace and discuss their latest projects. Plus, the baked goods are flowing fast and furious. Amish bread, brownies, cookies, lemon bars, homemade chocolates, and more have graced our coffee table in the last couple of weeks, and it keeps getting better as it gets colder outside. (Diets are on hiatus in the knitting circle, as you can see!) Gomez, our store owner's parrot, is happy to receive offerings, too. As he crunches his treats, he offers occassional commentary to the customers whom he assumes are his adoring fans.

Perhaps the most exciting news - We are bringing wine and cheese help nights to Karma. These help nights have taken off up and down the east coast, and been featured in several knitting magazines and blogs. For a flat fee, customers come and spend the evening with a glass of wine, some friends, and get their questions answered. Help night visitors will have access to special sales and private events. The store will be closed to all non-participants for each help night. In our new, spruced up digs, we will have a great time!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Quick, fab and free sock pattern in WORSTED!

Canadian Living Magazine puts a free knitting pattern in every issue. The current issue has Weekend Socks by Glenna C, the talented host of the Knitting to Stay Sane blog. (See link below.)

One thing that often stops folks from starting a pair of socks is that they have a ton of stitches, and are some small accessories. Making them in a worsted weight solves this concern! Worsted socks have about half the stitches of traditional socks on a pair of 2's. This pattern is a great starter pattern, and a quick and easy pattern for experienced knitters. Give it a go!

Placing an order

About a year ago I made a pair of mitts from The Knitter's Bible: Knitted Accessories with Cascade Greenland yarn. They have a lovely cable down the back, and are otherwise ribbed, giving lots of warmth and stretch. Greenland is Superwash, so there isn't much allergic reaction. I wear them to knit in the the chilly Buffalo winter, and love them.

Today my eldest placed an order for a pair of her own, mentioning that she's been borrowing mine because they are "so cool". I've knit for my teens before, and it's always a mystery what will be popular for more than a few weeks. Mitts seem to be a winner every time, but who would have thought my boho grunge daughter would be mad for cables?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mysteries of the Stash Unravelled

I'm momemts away from finishing the socks for the Mr., and realizing that I will have some yarn leftover. This reminds me of the mystery of the stash - how much yarn is in each of those leftover balls?

The original ball band tells me that this particular yarn was 5oz, and 405yds. To know what's left, I can just weigh the remaining ball (on the little $10 kitchen scale) and use that weight to calculate the remaining yardage. 405yds in 5oz means there were 81yds per oz. I have a half an ounce left, so I have 40yds. If I stick this ball in a snack size baggie with a lable of yardage and the original ball band, I know all I need to know.

My kitchen scale allows me to switch back and forth from grams to ounces, which makes it all the more handy. It's one of the best knitting tools I've ever bought.

In cases where I have multiple colors of the same yarn type, (Cascade 220 for example) I can leave one ball band in a larger bag with all the remainder balls, and weigh out each color and list them on one piece of paper in the bag.

This is a fiddly process, but a really fast one. It saves me a ton of time when I'm sorting out yarns for projects. If a sweater calls for 1500yds of the main color, and one skein of contrast for a stripe on color and cuffs, it likely doesn't need hundreds of yards of contrast. Comparing the skein size in the pattern and my stash labels, I can tell if a leftover ball will do the job or if I need a new one. For colorwork projects and intarsia that only use a smidge of a color to fill in a flower or an eye or a leaf, again it's pretty easy to know if I have the yardage I need.

Give it a try. I hope it helps!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holiday Knitting

If you haven't discovered it yet, you really should look at Knitty, an online knitting magazine with free patterns and articles for knitters of most levels. This season, as with most, they have fabulous patterns and articles. The Queen City Mitts are a good example. They are an excellent first or second cable pattern for the new cable knitter. There are only a few cable crosses (5 I think), and the finished garment is beautiful and unusual. For more experienced knitters, it's a great pattern to add to your holiday gift pattern list.

Speaking of holiday knitting, I'm behind. Yes, I have been studying too much and knitting too little (depending on your priorities) and the socks for the Mr. are still not done. I'm also working on a Christmas stocking pattern to teach for a class at Karma. It's a modification of one I've made before, and I want it to be fast and painless for the students, while still creating an attractive product.

What are you working on for your holiday projects? Is this your first year making knitted gifts, or are you an old hand? Do you have any favorite holiday patterns? Share them! Thanks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Knitting Monogamy

While doing my best to be monogamous to my sock project for the Mr., I have managed to knit a sample of the Knit Along for next month. It works! I love when I don't have to redesign, which happens a little less than half the time. My current school load is a little nuts, so I appreciate the reprieve from further knitting homework.

I used to be a strong believer in having a couple or a few projects on the needles at a time. It was good to have one really portable and mindless project for knitting away from home, one more interesting project for my primary knitting, and maybe one long term project that would make me crazy to tackle for more than an hour at a time. That changed when I spent the last year avoiding knitting requests, and only knit what I wanted at any given time. I've discovered I'm more interested in finishing things than I realized. It's not very Zen of me, but the process is not the only reason I do this. If I need a simple project for a situation, I'll cast it on at that time. (Not that these socks are rocket science, mind you, but my knitting time is short these days.)

So now, I'm a one-project-woman, with the exception of the classes I design and the monthly Knit Along. Which means I'm still a knitting polygamist after all. I just have less on the needles. Rats. I guess I'm a recovering polygamist. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Knitting and Homework

When I was in college 25 years ago, there was a really cool girl in my dorm and in some of my classes who was capable of wizardry. She could sit in the library reading her homework and knit a beautiful Fair Isle pattern in the round at the same time! She was from Oslo, Norway, and when I asked her about this magical feat of simultaneous attention, she indicated that it wasn't at all unusual, all her friends in Norway did the same thing.

There are a variety of reasons to admire the Norwegians, including magnificent skin, great hair, cool accents, and the fact that they get to live in Norway just for starters. But to knit and read homework at the same time? I really need some Norwegian in me lately, because I have a lot of homework to read, and am utterly incapable of knitting at the same time.

I imagine the possibilities: read and knit on the subway on the way to work, becoming better informed and making progress on my current project. Read and knit on a plane, getting familiarized with a proposal for an upcoming meeting while finishing socks. Read and knit on my couch, and get both my homework and my holiday knitting done in one sitting.

I don't want to knit while driving, or cooking, or taking my dog for a run. The potential danger to the knitting (and others) is too high. I'm not asking for much, am I? If you receive some strangely shaped garment from me this holiday season, know that it was for a good cause. I am going to learn to do these two things at once. Probably. I hope.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday, Monday

It's Colombus Day. Whether you believe Colombus merits a holiday or not, most of the rest of us deserve the day off, so I'll take it.

I was the shop "Knit Doctor" yesterday, and had a woman with several questions. Write a pattern for an existing Mobius Cowl she had brought in with her. Okay. How to fix errors in her cast on row in a blanket without ripping out all the subsequent rows. (You can't, but some will become unnoticeable during the blocking process.) Correct some stitches she had purled when she should have knit them. I did, and taught her how. Pick up some dropped stitches. I did. I helped intermittently for 2 hours, and she walked out without paying. Didn't buy yarn, tools, or anything else. Just ate snacks, was served coffee, got her questions answered and didn't pay the $5 fee. She was easily 65 years old, well dressed, with expensive jewelry, and even mentioned the fee shortly before leaving. What is that? I may make it a policy to tackle people on their way out the door and wrestle them for the fee! (Whose Karma would that be?)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

November Knit Along

I started writing patterns for a monthly dishcloth/blanket square knit along two Karma-Knitting-Shop newsletters back, and have been really surprised and pleased with the results. September was a Dragonfly, and October was a Happy Skull. My goal is to make something cheerful, seasonal, and secular for each month.

I finished the chart for the November Knit Along yesterday. (It's a "slice of pie" square!) I still have to knit a sample to confirm the pattern. Modern technology has made the whole process pretty easy, as I just print out scaled knitting graph paper and transfer my design to the "pixels". ( But since knit stiches are not really neat rectangles, the knitted result doesn't always live up to the sketch. If the sample is good, step three will be typing it up, as our group seems to prefer written patterns to charts.

In the Karma department, I awoke coughing and sneezing today. When I came downstairs I discovered that my dog has learned a new game. He pulls the Kleenex out of the box one at a time! Once he has made a little pile of them, he chews them until they're pulpy, and then repeats. Interesting that he chose to learn this trick just when I really NEED those Kleenexes...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Getting Ready For Class

Simple Texting Mitts class tomorrow. We're working in the round, but straights with seams are possible. Worsted weight and 7s are the order of the day. I have four teens at home and all three girls LOVE these! No fingers or thumb tips make these an easy first mitten pattern, as there is minimal shaping involved. Just make that thumb and you're home free!

Next week is Marvelous Minis. I'm collecting some simple miniature patterns to use. Minis are fun because you use/learn all the skills for a full sized garment, but you use a fraction of the yarn and the time. I enjoy using leftovers from favorite skeins of yarn again, and the little creations always get comments. I'm offering mittens and socks... Pictures will follow, I promise.

It's very hit or miss whether I'll have students. Eight students came to Easy Entrelac, but none came to a basic swirl cap in the round. I was in Northampton, MA over the weekend, and there are two shops there getting $15 -$20 bucks a class, 1-2 classes per week, and they are often full classes. Here in Buffalo, NY I charge $5, and it's totally hit or miss. (Since most patterns are original, and the class runs 2 hours, it's quite a deal!) Sometimes I schedule classes that have been requested a few times and get no one. Sometimes I schedule things that just pop into my head and they're overfull. Will you be there tomorrow?

All I Really Do Is Knitting

I have an allergy to wool, which makes it more difficult for me to buy yarns than the wool-tolerant folks. (As the granddaughter of dairy farmers, I'm also lactose intolerent. My luck runs to the ironic.) Fortunately for me, most "superwash" wools cause me to react very little, so I can knit with them for other people. Otherwise, there is a lot of Alpaca, Cotton, and Silk in my knitting life.

So, at the moment I'm making the Mr. a pair of socks with a fabulous yarn called Nichole by Schaefer Yarns (80% extrafine merino wool superwash/20% nylon, 405yds over 5oz.) I'm about 70% through with them, and love the yarn so much I've bought two more skeins to make more projects! I know I will use and love other yarns, but it feels like when you get towards the end of a really good novel and you don't want the story to end. More later, with photos to follow.