New “Principles of Knitting” in November

Well, I'll be… something.

The rumors of years have finally given way to truth.  A new version of "The Principles of Knitting" — for years, one of the most thorough knitting reference books out there — will be published in November.  (Just in time for Xmas!  Coincidence?  I think not.)

According to Amazon,

A treasured guide beloved by knitters everywhere, the classic book The Principles of Knitting is finally available again in a fully revised and updated edition.

This is THE definitive book on knitting techniques, with valuable information for everyone from beginners to experienced knitters. June Hiatt presents not only a thorough, thoughtful approach to the craft, but also a passion for carrying on the art of knitting to future generations. She has repeatedly tested the various techniques and presents them with clear, easy-to-follow instructions—as well as an explanation of what each one can contribute to your knitting. Informed by decades of experience and thousands of hours of practice, this comprehensive resource offers a variety of ways to approach every skill and technique and offers solutions that can help solve the most challenging aspects of any knitting project.

The Principles of Knitting has been totally rewritten—new instructions, new illustrations, and new information. While the basics of knitting have not changed much, June’s understanding of the material has deepened over the last twenty-five years, and she’s eager to share what she has learned with the knitting world. In addition, the book has been reorganized to make it easier to use and has a gorgeous new design.

I will be quite interested to see what Ms. Hiatt says about Continental knitting (what she calls Left-Finger Knitting) this time around.  Last time, back in 1989, she dismissed it with a few paragraphs, saying it wasn't possible to get a nice, even fabric with this method unless you were an expert.  Hmmmm…  guess that makes me an expert.  And she also made a negative reference in this section that I am pretty sure is aimed at Elizabeth Zimmerman's well-known avoidance of purling and preference to knit in the round.  Not classy, I think.

As my students know, I have never liked to see knitting books that say there is only one right way to knit.  As far as I am concerned, if you are happy with your knitting, that's basically what matters.  After all, most of us are knitting for our own pleasure, not for production or to win the blue ribbon at the State Fair.

For a different reason, Ms. Hiatt and I also disagree a bit on what she calls Right-Hand knitting, which is more-or-less American-style knitting.  As I recall, she advocates controlling the yarn tension by holding it between right thumb and forefinger.  I happen to think this sets knitters up for fatigue problems even if done properly, i.e. loosely.  I think it sets knitters up for REAL problems when it is done the way beginners usually do it, i.e. with a death grip on that yarn so tight that it's almost impossible to get the new stitch through the old one.  (You know who you are, Rock Star.)  I believe it is far preferable to control the yarn by winding it through the fingers of the right hand, rather than pinching it — at least, if you plan to do any sizeable amount of knitting.

However — while the author and I may disagree on some of her knitting philosophy, the original book is absolutely an excellent technical reference.  It explains and illustrates more techniques than most people know exist, let alone know how to do.  I am hopeful that the new version will contain even more good stuff and of course, much better photos and illustrations.  Color, for a start!

You can pre-order at Amazon right now — and if you do it with the link above, I'll get a teeny little kickback.  :)

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What (Else) Can You Do on Ravelry?

This week, Ravelry posted a message that they had the ONE MILLIONTH person join the website.  Wowsers!  Hooray!  Congrats Ravelry! Just in case you have been under a rock or something for a couple of years, and you haven’t heard of it — Ravelry is a unique free website for fiber lovers that was started in May 2007.  The founders say:

Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration.

Some people call it “Facebook for knitters”, and while there is a large and thriving community on the Ravelry forums — and there are forums for just about every knitting topic imaginable —

I tend to think of Ravelry instead as an awesome knitting database.  It is a gold mine of information, and can answer some very important knitting questions — if you know where and how to look.

So, what can you do with input from a million knitters (and crocheters)?  Here are some useful things you can do with Ravelry that you may not have thought of!


 1.  Get the scoop on yarns before you buy.  I have no idea how many yarns are catalogued on Ravelry by now — OK, I can’t help myself, I’m going to do the math.  It looks like there is 500 pages worth, and at 20 yarns per page, that is 10,000 different yarns.  Holy crap!

So, chances are that whatever you are considering is on there.  And there is a 5-star rating system, so you can see how other knitters have rated that particular yarn.  (Of course, just like any other online rating system, you need to take the ratings with a grain of salt — but since this isn’t entirely a public forum, and since I like to think that knitters are in general honest people, I believe the ratings are perhaps a bit more reliable here than elsewhere on the interwebs.)


 2.  Find a yarn with the exact characteristics you are looking for.  And I do mean “exact”.  Try out the advanced search for yarn, and you’ll get to filter your search results by whether it has a photo; how may fiber types are in it; what the fiber types are; weight, needle size, or hook size; whether it is discontinued; suggested gauge; and even if it is machine washable, plus much more.  You can also save your search results!


 3.  Find a local yarn store near you.  On the yarn page, Ravelry has a teensy little link that says there are 24 stores near me, and I can click it to get a list of them, sorted by distance and with web page links to boot!  (Yes, with 24 stores, we are spoiled for choice here.)


 4.  Browse for ideas.  OK, this sounds like nothing new, but indeed — if the idea of knitting another plain ol’ hat seems a bit boring, you can browse through pictures of hat patterns to your heart’s content.  Here again, the biggest strength of Ravelry is its exhaustive filtering capabilities.  You can search those hat patterns by so many different factors, I’m not even going to try to type them out.  The obvious ones such as gauge or needle size are there of course, but also things like fit, ease, and yardage.

YARDAGE!  that is so amazingly important, let me say that again.  Search by YARDAGE!  perfect for that whole problem of “lessee, I have 400 yards of this DK weight yarn — hmmm, wonder what I could make out of THAT?”

Even if you don’t find an idea that you love, you at least get a pretty darned good idea of how far that yarn is likely to go — and you won’t end up with half-finished sleeves and no yarn left.  COMPLETELY AWESOME.  That right there makes it worth signing up, for anyone with a stash — i.e. everyone.  :)


 5.  Let other people browse for ideas.  Suppose you are going to knit someone a scarf.  OK, what kind of scarf do they want?

But when you ask this question — particularly to a non-knitter, and let’s face it, that’s who we knit for — it seems you always end up playing 20 Questions, asking things like, “Well, do you want a winter-y scarf or a dressy scarf?  Animal fiber or plant fiber?  Beads?  Lace?  Hey, there’s this one I saw in a book somewhere that has this kind of funky stitch pattern…”

Then you get a blank look and more often than not, they say something like, “Um, you know, just a scarf.”

So, this is where a picture on Ravelry is worth a thousand words!  And bonus for teachers like me:  it works for students, too.  When a new-ish knitter doesn’t know what to knit, I always suggest they do a little looking around, whether in books or online, and Ravelry can be a good place for that — although a really brand-new knitter can get completely overwhelmed by it all.


 6.  See how a yarn looks when it’s knitted up.  OK, so that lovely yarn looks really yummy in a skein, but what will it look like when it is knitted?  It’s the $64,000 question in yarn stores around the globe, isn’t it?

Well, on Ravelry, you can search for other people’s projects in that yarn!The obvious way to do this is to search in “Projects” and then filter by yarn name — I find it is a whole lot simpler to search “Yarns” for the correct one, and then click on “projects” for that yarn.


 7.  Rescue a TOAD — or better yet, prevent one.  My personal story of when I realized the awesome power of Ravelry…

…Once upon a time, I had some Sari Silk yarn.  If you know what that is like, you know it has some pretty specific characteristics, and you can’t knit just any old thing with it.  I searched for a pattern online and found one for “Unbiased”, a bag pattern from Knitty, Fall 2004.  When it was finished, though, it didn’t hang right, and I figured I was going to have to redo the whole thing.

For whatever reason, I had the brainwave to look at other people’s projects on Ravelry.  They have another very interesting rating system for projects:  how happy are you with it?  I think this one is pretty key.  I mean, 3 stars out of 5 might mean someone didn’t like knitting with the yarn, but maybe you intend to use a different yarn or something.  However, if a majority of people rate the finished thing as “so-so” or “very unhappy”, it just might behoove you to spend a few minutes reading why, and it might save you a whole lot of knitting time you can use for something better.

In my case, it turned out that not a lot of people were thrilled with the functionality of the bag.  More than one person said things fell out of it too easily.  Well, to me, that’s not a very useful bag!  So I used the yarn to make a different bag and I use it all the time and get lots of compliments on it.  How great is THAT?


 Ravelry is so extensive, though, I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface.  So now it’s your turn.  What do YOU use Ravelry for?

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Knitting Jargon on the Interwebs

Yesterday at the LYS, I took part in a discussion about SABLE.ufo theater marquee from

What, you never heard of SABLE?  You might even be a member of SABLE!

SABLE stands for "Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy".  A person becomes a member of this group when she owns more yarn than she can reasonably expect to knit in her years remaining on this mortal coil.*

*As I recall, my MIL didn't find this one too humorous when I explained it to her once, either.

I think I'm in it already, partly because I have a LOT of yarn, but also because I end up knitting everything about 2 or 3 times — since I insist on continuing to design stuff from the ground up, instead of following patterns.

Anyway, during yesterday's discussion, someone suggested that I need to put up a glossary of this kind of stuff, for those who don't spend as much time on a computer as I do.  OK, here goes!

I'm not going to include regular knitting abbreviations like "K2tog".  This list is what I consider to be knitting abbreviations birthed by the interwebs — the kind of thing you aren't likely to see in a pattern, but might find on my blog or (sob) someone else's.

Types of Knitting Projects

FO: Finished Object (yay!)

OTN:  On The Needles

TOAD:  Trashed Object, Abandoned in Disgust

UFO: UnFinished Object, also BUFO: Boring UnFinished Object

USO: UnStarted Object

WIP: Work In Progress, also SWIPE: Stalled Work In Progress

People & Publications

DH (or W, S, D, MIL, etc): Dear Husband (or Wife, Son, Daughter, Mother-In-Law, etc)

EZ: Elizabeth Zimmerman (famous knitter)

VK: Vogue Knitting

Knitting Techniques

Frog:  to pull out mass quantities of knitting by removing the needles and pulling on the working yarn.  Because a frog says, "rip-it, rip-it".

KAT: Knitting Against Time — can you say, "Xmas presents"?

KIP: Knitting In Public

KIV:  Knitting in Vehicle

KO:  Knitting Opportunity

SSS:  Second Sock Syndrome.  When a knitter has a hard time finishing a pair of socks.  Usually because the second sock has become a BUFO.

Tink:  Undoing knitting one stitch at a time.  From "knit" spelled backwards.


Yarn Jargon

LYS: Local Yarn Store

LYSO: Local Yarn Store Owner

NTINAMY: Not That I Need Any More Yarn.  Usually followed by "but" and said while standing at the register at the LYS.

SABLE: Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy

SEX: Stash Enrichment eXpedition.  Can be done in public, even!

Stash:  I remember once talking to a knitter who was uneasy about the use of this word to describe one's yarn collection, because it had the connotation of drugs and addictions.  Yeah.  Let's not over-think that one, shall we?

YCZ: Yarn Containment Zone.  The place where you hide keep the stash.

YAQ: Yarn Acquisition Quest.  Similar in intent to SEX, except that sometimes a quest has a specific goal in mind, such as one more skein of whatever it is you just ran out of.


Did I miss anything?

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A Little Knit Music

Hey, I'm back from a week's vacation — didja miss me?

Part of the trip was spent in Washington, DC, where I found this on the building of the Department of Agriculture:  closest thing to a sheep I saw the whole time we were there!

ram on dept of agriculture bldg

I did get one UFO finished during the trip, but I will save that for another post, because it's got quite a story behind it.  Stay tuned.

Another person who recently went traveling was my pal Rock Star, who brought me back something from California:  an amazing piece of knitting sheet music!

and then she'd knit knit knit sheet music

(I did my best to scan it in sections and "stitch" it together, but unfortunately my $5 garage sale scanner still puts those yellow lines on things sometimes.  Oh, well.)

It says it was written in part by Harry Von Tilzer, who according to Wikipedia was a very popular US songwriter.

Harry Von Tilzer's hits included "Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage", "Cubanola Glide", "Wait 'Til The Sun Shines Nellie", "Old King Tut", "All Alone", "Mariutch", "I Love My Wife, But Oh You Kid!", "They Always Pick On Me", "I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad", "And The Green Grass Grew All Around" and many others.

The copyright date is MCMXVII, or 1917:  I can just about hear it coming over an old-timey radio with crackly reception, and sung by something like a barbershop quartet.

At first I assumed this song was written as part of the war effort — although I found out it's not exactly about encouraging knitters to produce FO's for soldiers!  And it turns out that Mr. Von Tilzer also wrote one called "Under the Anheuser Bush", har har — so perhaps that explains a little bit about his outlook on life.

(It's a little light on punctuation, but I present it here as it is written in the original.)

Verse 1

Pretty little Kitty's got the patriotic craze

Knitting scarfs for soldiers day and night

Silly little Billy now is spending all his days

Watching Kitty knit with all her might

She even knits when out in his canoe.

She knits while Billy tries to bill and coo.

Chorus 1

He'd take a hug

Then he'd hug her some more

While she'd knit knit knit knit knit

He'd steal a kiss

Then he'd take an encore

And she'd knit knit knit knit knit

Under a tree

He would rest with a smile

She'd lay her knitting down for a while

A bird in a nest

Said oh give us a rest

Go on and knit knit knit.


Verse 2

Pretty little Kitty said, now Willie do your bit

Here's some yarn and needles you can start

Come and sit beside me and I'll teach you how to knit

That's the way that you can win my heart

He'd knit a while and then he'd want to woo.

He'd look at her and drop a stitch or two.

Chorus 2

He'd take a hug

Then he'd hug her some more

She'd say knit knit knit knit knit

He'd steal a kiss

Then he'd take an encore

She'd say knit knit knit knit knit

One day a tug

Passed them by in a squall

Looking through glasses was captain and all

They both heard a yelp

Do you need any help?

And she said knit knit knit.

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For Breakfast In Bed

It’s kind of a long story, but what the heck — you’ve got some time to kill, right?  I’ll valiantly try to keep it short.Joan Crawford Knitting

A decade ago, plus or minus, my brother and I were back in Iowa, helping my mom as she attempted to continue living in her apartment.  As part of the job, we went out to get her some new housewares.  And on the way back to the apartment, we stopped at an estate sale.

We didn’t have a lot of time to browse, but we left offers on a few things — and I think I ended up with everything I bid on.  The ones I remember were (1) a set of those "ladies’ luncheon" glass plate-and-cup sets from, say, the 50’s — you know, the kind that have a convenient little notch in which to place your cigarette — and (2) a big wooden box that was full of old newspapers and magazines.

The box itself was what I was after — it was ancient and beat-up ("distressed") and just generally cool-looking.  I think I paid $5 for it.

The interesting-looking wooden box now holds yarn in the studio, but the original box o’ newspapers sat around our house just as it was for a long time, with DH asking, "What are you going to do with that?" once in a while.  One day, I finally sifted through the pile.  And I found a treasure trove.rinso ad

Collier’s Weekly & the Saturday Evening Post from the early 1900’s (beginning "A Little Union Scout" by Joel Chandler Harris, 2/6/1904); Music News (around the 1920’s); a great little short-story magazine called "The Black Cat" from April 1901; and The Illustrated London News’ programme of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953, with 16 colour plates!

There’s also something called "The Aldine", from the 1870’s.  And a collection of my hometown newspapers from 1945, with important WWII headlines:  MEN LOCKED IN GREAT BATTLE ON OKINAWA ISLAND; REICH SURRENDERS; WAR IN ITALY VIRTUALLY OVER; SIMPLE RITES FOR ROOSEVELT.  There’s even one with a picture of Mussolini hanging by his heels.  You just don’t get that kind of thing on the front page nowadays.Pinocchio Still

 The engravings in the Aldine, the advertisements for corsets in Collier’s, the articles about bread ("National Strength depends on proper diet; bread viewed as best source of human fuel") — it’s all fascinating.

I even found a review of "Pinocchio" from when it was a new movie.  There were several color stills in the article, but I liked this one with his finger on fire the best.

Simply amazing stuff.  And I have barely scratched the surface.  You wouldn’t believe what I found today — it’s just completely the coolest.

Canadian Home Journals from the 1940’s — with knitting patterns.

I gotta try this one out — although I admit I can’t quite picture how this piece is supposed to work.  Surely there’s going to have to be an opening for your head somewhere?

Maybe I can get it done in time for Valentine’s Day, when I’m certain to get breakfast in bed… and I’m pretty sure it will be fabulous in MOHAIR…

For Breakfast in Bed

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Hmph. About Time!

Here’s a quote from the latest Vogue Knitting email:


Introducing the VK360°

Vogue Knitting Holiday 2008 is now officially on sale…and on video!

This issue, we decided to put every project up on the big screen—due in large part to all of your positive feedback (thanks VK readers!).

It seems they have started posting videos of the projects in the magazine, showing each garment on a real live model, who turns around and so forth.

Wish they had done this last year.

But of course, it wouldn’t have worked last year.

Last year, they put out the Holiday issue with (what I have come to think of as) the infamous "Nutcracker" sweater — a loose-fitting smock that, as I learned to my sorrow, was shown with a whole lot of sweater bunched up behind the model’s back to make it look like a cute little cardigan.

You may have read some of my "positive feedback" on the subject here.  I had a few things to say about it.

Yes indeed, I think I can take full credit for bringing the editors of VK to their senses (and their morals) and turning the whole thing around.  No, no, no need to thank me.  I did it for all of us.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go knit myself a knitting superhero cape.

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It’s Not Just Me

I know, I know, I haven’t written anything for a whole week – didja miss me? – but it’s mainly because my journal subscription to Catherine Lowe’s couture knitting workshop arrived and I’ve been more-or-less submerged in it.  This stuff is GREAT.

The title of this post refers to the fact that it’s apparently not just me that gets all wound up about excellent knitting, and the technical aspects thereof.  It’s not even just me that writes waaaaay too much on the subject.  No, if you thought I was bad about being able to ramble on and on about knitting minutiae:  try 28 pages on selvedges alone in the first volume.

Six pages of nothing but selvedge stitch patterns.

OK, the pages may be only half-letter size — but the typeface is tiny, too.

I can hardly wait to find a place to use this one:  "Penultimate Chain St Selvedge", for use "along unshaped or moderately shaped edges for vertical joins when working at a fine gauge or when bulk at the seam is not consequential".

Yeah, OK, but I just like the name.  It comes very close to my favorite multisyllable word that I swear I’m going to include in a knitting pattern someday, which is:



Well, let’s break it down.

  • "ultimate" refers to the last one of something, so
  • "penultimate" refers to the next-to-the-last one of something;

and if you throw an "ante" on there, meaning "before" or "prior to" (as in "antebellum"), you get

  •  "antepenultimate", meaning the one before the next-to-the-last one.


Think I can’t find a use for this in a knitting pattern?  Think again.  In fact, think toe shaping.

"Knit to the antepenultimate st; K2tog, K1."


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Calling all Cupcakes!

OK, the Internet is definitely a weird place.cupcake gown

After Sheryl’s comment sent me off googling "knitted fruitcake," somehow this is what I found, over at the Sydney Morning Herald:

"These are just some of the finalists in this year’s [2005] annual Shoot the Chef competition where student and professional photographers compete to produce the image that captures the essence of what it is to be a chef."

This is…  well, art, I think.  And, it’s actual food.

"There are 478 cupcakes in the dress. Simmone [Logue, the subject] made them all, of course. The flowers – roses and gerberas, mainly – were all fresh. We bought them from the markets at 5am, so we had to move quickly to take the shot so they wouldn’t look too frowzy. We started off with a Barbie theme, but ended up with a more elegant look. The top’s from Opera Australia – it’s a costume top. I sourced the jewellery from a wedding boutique. The "skirt" took about three hours to build. It was an exercise in putting a lot of beautiful elements together to explore the idea of femininity."

Sooo…  but where, you ask, does knitting come into this?

Aha, I reply, remember Leigh Radford’s knitted cupcakes?

You see where I’m going with this, of course.  Yes indeedy, I think we knitters can go the chefs one better.  "Putting beautiful elements together to explore femininity" such as this looks to me like a heckuva lot better way to while away your extra knitting time than making a knitted dissected rat, anyway.  (Yes, even if we use acrylic yarn.  Just so long as a lot of it is pink.)

There are 209 completed cupcake projects on Ravelry for the LR version, and another 236 for the free one designed by Eva MacDonald, so c’mon — we’re practically there already!

All we need to do is get Christo on board with it.

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Nothing to Say?

Ya know, it’s hard to blog when the things you are doing are (a) things that you can’t write about or (b) boring.

In the second category lately are many administrative things, like setting up fall class schedules and working on websites.  The good news is, the Polar Bear Patterns site is coming along nicely — well, at least it’s functional.  There are still a few things to work out — mainly I’ve been having issues figuring out just how to glom everything I do into one place.  It’s harder than it sounds:  patterns, classes, general knitting, etc.  At least, it’s harder for me than it sounds like it ought to be.  I’ve been doing everything myself up to now, but I’m thinking I may soon need some professional help.  (And I’ll need someone to work on my websites too — ba-dum bump!)

Probably also in the second category is the annual "Sorting Through the Yarn Stash", which I accomplished over the weekend.  I have started trying to do this once every year, just prior to my absolute favorite fiber festival:  the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, which is coming up here in a couple of weeks (September 26 – 27 – 28, 2008).

Last year, this stash-sorting practice did save me from buying a skein of sock yarn that was almost an exact duplicate of something I already had — which is always a pitfall of having as much yarn as I do, coupled with my startlingly unreliable memory.  But, I also find it is really a lot of fun to get reacquainted with my yarn collection:  I find all sorts of things I have completely forgotten about that I meant to do something fabulous with.  It’s pretty much as much fun for me as shopping for the yarn in the first place.

Fortunately, my taste in yarn is pretty stable, so I still like all of it.  Yes, that’s right:  I didn’t get rid of any of it.  I just rearranged it, and made it fit into a (slightly) smaller space.stash 2008

Here it is, in all its glory:  one hutch, full to bursting; three large milk crates on top of it, also packed; and off to the left, some additional bags of yarn (there underneath the infamous duct-taped box).

How do I sort my stash?  Let me count the ways.

The stuff on the left is "combos" of yarns I’ve put together, and am still thinking about — such as my self-explanatory "black collection", and the bag of various green MOHAIRS that was a really funny and clever birthday present from my knitting friends a couple of years ago.  These just need the right project to come along.  Any minute now.

The black crate at the bottom left of the hutch is full of sock yarn; the white box next to it is stuff suitable only for felting.  Neither socks nor felting is tops of my personal knitting list — but I have the yarn available, just in case.

The next shelf up contains bags of "multiple colors of the same yarn", i.e. my collection of Cascade 220, and my collection of Manos — which has now expanded to fill a total of 5 gallons worth of ziplocks.

Then there’s the shelf of "medium amounts", which are about 1/2 a sweater’s worth of yarn.  To continue that concept, the top shelf contains "small amounts" and the milk crates stacked to the ceiling contain "large amounts" — about 1/4 of a sweater and a full sweater’s worth, respectively.

Finally, on the second shelf, at eye-level, there are the "special" yarns.  There are some carry-along yarns on cones, but it’s mostly single skeins of something gorgeous:  metallics and MOHAIRS and ribbons and eyelash and railroad and boucle and all kinds of good stuff.  (Plus a teeny bit of overflow from a couple of the other shelves.)

Obviously, I don’t need to do any yarn shopping — so this year I am taking three classes at OFFF, including one on machine knitting and one on "Scribble Lace".  I’m very excited about that last one.  The class is being taught by Debbie New, and is a technique shown in her book, "Unexpected Knitting."  This is one of the most truly original knitting books I have ever seen, and if you’ve never looked at it, it will really open your eyes to the wild and crazy possibilities of this thing we do.

I’ve actually had the Scribble Lace Cardigan on the hotlist for a while, and a couple years ago I even bought the yarn for it — at OFFF, as it happens.  I can’t show you the picture of the cardigan in the book, because Rock Star borrowed it last Friday, but believe me, it’s very cool.

Another thing that I’ve been keeping busy with:  I think everyone noticed that it’s September, and so last week I had a teaching gig every single day, with the exception of Labor Day itself.  A couple of beginners, a re-learner, a Continental class, a hat class, and the Friday group class.  It was quite a busy week!

sock yarn and toe

And finally, solidly in the first category of "things I can’t actually write about" is the sock I am working on for Deb Kessler’s Fearless Fibers sock club.

I can’t reveal my double-secret plan, but I can show you the yarn and the toe:

mmmm, yummy!


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In the Mood

Over at the [Knitting Daily->] blog, they’ve been discussing the design process used by Michelle Rose Orne in her book, Inspired to Knit.  I haven’t gotten the book yet, but Michelle’s description of her design process intrigues me:

As a designer for the garment industry for many years, I used … mood or “story boards” when I would “pitch” ideas for a “line” of sweaters to retail buyers.  Though common in the garment industry, this type of presentation was apparently an anomaly in the world of handknitting!

Well.  This reminds me a LOT of the mind-blowing collage I made last year, when I was doing a major closet clean-out for the first time in several years.  (Well, it blew my tiny little mind, anyway.)  I ran across the collage idea in a book — unfortunately, I’m not sure which one, because I own a lot of books on style, wardrobe, and dressing well — and decided to try it, with some pretty amazing results — one of which was an entirely new direction in my knitting, and my beloved "Sassy" sweater.

Maybe I’m just shallow, but the subject of clothing has always fascinated me.  I can clearly remember how excited I was when Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson came out in… oh, dear.  This is going to be one of those I-can’t-believe-it-was-that-long-ago things, isn’t it?  I’m going to guess it was maybe 1983 or so.  Just a second, I’ll be right back…

…OK, it was 1980.  (I wasn’t that far off, but it was still a freaky long time ago.)  I was only 11, but that book made such an impression on me, because it confirmed something I’d been suspecting:  due to my redhead’s coloring, clothes in colors that looked good on most other people didn’t always look too hot on me.

Light grey, for instance, or light blue or even bright red.  I’ll bet both most of you have several items of those colors in your closet.  Not me.  Those are all colors I have eliminated from my wardrobe.  Instead, in my closet — another revelation from that major clean-out session — here’s what you’ll find:

  • black,
  • brown,
  • beige,
  • every shade of green imaginable (except for minty green),
  • and orange.
  • (and yes, some pink.  But not enough, really.)

And actually, I need to restate that earlier sentence — I should say, "clothes in colors that made other people look good didn’t always make me look good."  Because another important concept I learned, back at that tender age, was the idea that it’s the job of the clothes to make the person look good — not the other way around.  (Unless you’re a model or a designer, I suppose.)

In fact, this Color-Me-Beautiful revelation is in part directly responsible for the fact that I knit — because at some point I looked around at what was in the Iowa malls, and I figured out that I was going to spend about as long shopping for an olive-green sweater as it would take to knit one.  It was a matter of learn to knit, or settle for navy blue.

But anyway, back to the point.  What was it?  Oh, yes, story boards and knitting.  So, I’m thinking about my closet collage, and what a success that was in slapping some sense into me changing the way I dress (and shop) much for the better.  I’m thinking about the fact that I’m slowly but surely whittling away at the pile of knitting UFO’s, and that means I’ll need some new projects soon…

Oh, hey, guess what?  I already do this "story board" thing, in a manner of speaking.  I have…  THE HOTLIST (or HL for short).

The "hotlist" is my name for the pile of printouts and copies (copies made from my own books & publications, mind you) of knitting patterns that have caught my eye.  If I see something online that I like, I’ll download it and print out a copy and put it in the HL pile.  If I find something in a book or magazine that’s worth serious consideration, I scan myself a copy and put it in the HL.

You may think, "That’s way too much trouble," but my feeling is, if I don’t want to bother with physically putting it in the hotlist, then I probably don’t really need to spend weeks or months knitting it.  After all, let’s be realistic here — I am speaking as a confirmed  "product" knitter, as opposed to "process" — and my projects tend to be sweaters, not socks or hats that are of short duration and easily gifted.  (Now, if you’re into "process", or yours tend to be different types of projects, then fire away!!  By all means, cast on impetuously, passionately, even heedlessly, Sheryl sister!!)

I’ve been doing the hotlist thing for years, way before [Ravelry->] got started, but I think the Ravelry "favorite" and "queue" functions probably work about the same way for a lot of knitters.  Trouble is — for me at least — that it would be way too easy for me to click-click-click and then I’d have hundreds of things on my lists.  Not the easiest way for me to figure out what to knit next.

I know, I know — the concepts of limiting oneself and exercising restraint are not popular these days.  Planning ahead and making sober, considered choices is not encouraged, especially by Madison Avenue.

But until I figure out how to knit several things at once, I’m sticking to my guns.  The hotlist keeps me from making too many "start-itis" fueled mistakes.  I don’t make good decisions in the throes of fiber-related passion, nor in the throes of a knitting funk.  I’ve spent plenty of money and time on impulse clothing purchases that didn’t work out so well.  Why on earth should I use the same philosophy to choose my knitting projects?  Those generally cost more, in materials and sweat equity and personal investment — a lot more.  Even with the hotlist as a filter, sometimes I’ll look at an HL pattern and go, "What was I thinking?"  OK, that right there is dodging a big ol’ bullet, as far as I’m concerned.

So when I’m in that cast-on-for-a-new-project mood, the hotlist comes in very handy.  I’ll go looking through the HL pile, and often I’ll find I have cherry-picked a half-dozen different patterns that are basically the same silhouette:  cropped vests, maybe, or tie-front cardigans.  Then I have two big ol’ advantages over the impulse method:  one is, I have a pretty good guarantee that the idea of knitting a tie-front cardigan is not just a passing fancy — and two is, I have several versions to look at and compare side-by-side, to see what I like best about each one.

Of course, the next thing that happens is, I like the sleeves on this one, and the neckline on that one, so I have to do some math and swatching to combine the two ideas, and then I’ll get a wild hair and just decide to design my own from scratch.  Well, no system is perfect.  (On the other hand, not every commercial pattern turns out to be just what it’s cracked up to be — remember the Nutcracker? — so designing one’s own is not always such a bad idea, either.)

And here’s a good place to admit that I don’t always rigidly follow my own rules, because the Nutcracker was a pretty impulsive project — saw it, loved it, had to have it, knitted it (a couple of times) — and it turned out to be a success in the end, when I had managed to knit the sweater that I fell in love with in the picture.

At any rate, once my stack of UFO’s are completed, or at least down to a manageable level — I’m really looking forward to going through the ol’ hotlist again in the near future.  I may even try one of those story board collage thingys, and see what happens…

  • And as a reward for making it all the way to the end of this post, here’s a tip that works to keep you from falling for the wrong thing in a knitting pattern.  And it seems to kind of fit in here, what with all this about color and choices and copies.
  • One of the first things we "see" when we look at a knitting pattern is the color of the item.  If you pay attention to this tendency in yourself, you may find, as I do, that you flip through a knitting magazine thinking, "ick, no, awful" and then suddenly there’s a green one and you go, "hey!"
  • The way to eliminate this color bias is to make a black-and-white copy of the picture, and see if you still like it.  Clever, no?

Happy Knitting!

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UFOlympics! the fifth and sixth events

Well, it's nearly halfway through the timeframe I set for my personal UFOlympics.  (In fact, it's only about 40% of the way through, if you don't count that "vacation" time I spent with strep.)

And while I've been waiting for you guys to decide what I'm supposed to do about the bunny eyes on the slippers, I haven't been sitting still.  No sirree, Bob.  No time to lose here in the UFOlympics.

Although I'll admit, what I did do is kinda-sorta cheating.  I jumped ahead on the list, and decided to face reality and cut loose a couple more painfully lingering projects.

But hey – is it really cheating, considering I was sick and all?

modular vestFirst up:  we have said a final farewell to UFO #9, this modular vest, started goodness knows how long ago — my best guess is somewhere around 2004, as that is the publishing date for the book "Dazzling Knits", whence this pattern came.

Does anyone else find themselves shaking their heads over the fact that I can have things sitting around for FOUR SOLID YEARS??  I know I am.  Does anyone think that will stop me from doing it again?  No, I didn't think so either.

But about the vest.  Once upon a time, I had made a fair bit of progress knitting it — I think I had most of a front done — and then I figured out that my color choices were, um, pretty bad.

Well, calling them "choices" implies that there was some kind of cohesive plan involved.

What I actually did was, I got together a whole bunch of skeins of Manos del Uruguay in colors that I liked, and then I just kept throwing a new color into the box every time I got stuck.

Fortunately, I eventually had the sense to ask an artist friend, Rock Star, what the heck was wrong.  She helped me remove about 40% of the colors I had oh-so-carefully selected.  (Oddly enough, most of the rejects went together quite nicely, and became a Fair isle hat.  But that's another story.)

box o manosAnd, I believe the pale yellow was deemed to be too high-value at some point, so I over-dyed it with some strong tea to tone it down a bit.  (In retrospect, looking at this collection of yarn, that part was actually pretty successful, I think.)

BTW, when I say "box", I mean it quite literally.  By the time I was on my elebenty-somethingth skein of Manos, I started having to carry the whole project around in this:  which is a special, custom-made, duct-taped box that some fellow knitters made for me, specifically to carry this project around in.  I think maybe they were making fun of me, but it's quite a nice box, really.  It has nice long duct tape handles so you can sling it over your shoulder — you can kinda see them at the top and bottom of this pic.  And as you can also see, it's even got interior reinforcement.

Oh, yes, back to the vest.  Well, the second time around, it appears that I got just about this far before becoming disenchanted.vest and swatch  No, that's not a swatch in that picture.  Yes, it is exactly three stinkin' triangles.

Not really a huge loss this time, in terms of hours of knitting abandoned.

And I must say, when I pulled this picture out of the project box, I just didn't even like the way it looked any more.  It was never meant to be for myself — I originally intended this vest to be a gift for someone — but still, at the time, I thought it looked nice.  Now I just don't even like it.

So — not a difficult choice to make.  And now I have a whole bunch of pretty colors of Manos stuck back in the hutch, awaiting some kind of inspiration.  It's in a bag, though – not a box.  Although I haven't thrown out the box, either.

cabled bagThe other project I have now abandoned, UFO #8,  was going to be a cabled knitted bag — which were oh-so-popular, what?  two-three years ago, right?

At one time, I cooked up this set of interesting cables, and apparently started knitting like a house on fuego.

It's not a bad cable panel, in and of itself — although I do think I could have spaced the cables out a bit more.  They are a bit dense.

Only problem is, I'm not a huge bag fan.  (Boxes are a different story.)  I carry most of my knitting projects around in re-purposed shopping bags, from either the Made in Oregon store, which happen to be green plastic; or the Knitting Bee, which are brown paper.

These two types of bags are about the right sizes for my average projects; they hold up pretty well over time — which I hope you are beginning to see is an important factor in my knitting life; and I can cheaply collect plenty of 'em to hold my many, many UFOs.

(Well, the ones from the Knitting Bee do usually cost a bit — but apparently, you get free yarn in 'em when you buy the paper bag.)

Finally, when I'm done re-using the shopping bags, I can throw 'em out (plastic) or recycle 'em (paper) with nary a twinge of conscience.

So, the only problem with this little project is — I DON'T WANT A CABLED KNITTED BAG.

I haven't ripped out the cable panel yet, because I'm toying with a couple of ideas.  One is to felt it and see what happens.  Another is to turn it into a pillow — it so happens that it would go pretty well with our home's color scheme of red, green and brown.  A fleeting third idea was to try to turn it into some sort of garment, but I think that's probably a bad one.  Or, I could simply reclaim the yarn and wait for a better idea to come along.

However, the cabled bag project is definitely history.

So — where do I stand, UFOlympics-wise?

I'm over halfway there!  Brioche hat done, bear mittens done — glam rock vest, cabled bag, and modular vest all abandoned.  That's five projects down.  Plus I have the bunny slippers about 90% complete.  And I've been working on UFO #4, which is almost taken care of too — so you'll probably see that in the next post.

And the calendar says I still have 25 days to go to the end of the Olympics.

But I have to say, the remaining UFO's on the list look like some tough ones…

Citius, altius, fortius!

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trishinhatA shameless Allman Brothers reference, and another guest post by the fabulous TrishC!

(Unsurprisingly, though, I couldn’t help throwing in a couple of editorial comments along the way.  TH)

Tess and I were chatting one day about how we got started knitting, and we discovered some strange coincidences.

At first, it didn’t seem as if there could be much in common between us.  I got started with crocheting when Tess, if she existed at all, was in diapers, back when hippies were busy with everything granny square.  She’s a Midwesterner, and I’m bicoastal (born in the old South, brought up in southern California.)   I’m a Deadhead. She’s the only person I know who has actually seen Flock of Seagulls in person.  The differences go on and on.

But, oddly, about the same time in the mid-1980’s, we both started knitting. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound all that peculiar. Lots of us discovered knitting at that time. Heck, Vogue Knitting began republishing then. But stay with me. It gets weirder. cc book

We found out that we both began with this little booklet, an oldie from the 50’s, from the Coats and Clarks company. 

Here’s my own copy, bought around 1969 in Lakeside, California, at an honest-to-gosh general store on the main street downtown. I learned to crochet from it. It’s survived all these years even though I seem to have used it as a coaster at some point. I don’t know when and where Tess bought hers. But (cue the Twilight Zone theme) we both used it at around the same time to learn to knit.

(Mine came from the local discount store in the Sunset Plaza — I can’t remember what the name of the store used to be, although it’s a Wal-mart now, and it used to be a Shopko in my teens — but this was way before either of those.  It was also where I got most of my easy-care yarn.)

It gets stranger. We also both decided to advance our knitting craft by using another book.RD book

Yep. That’s right. We both used the old Reader’s Digest Guide to Needlework. What are the chances? Sure, it’s a classic, and in my opinion still a great resource, but given how many general needlework books there are out there, isn’t it odd to have both used this one?

(I still think this is a great book, too.  Mine was an Xmas gift from my older brother, Joe, when I was about 10 or 11 or so.  In an unrelated incident, he also took me to get my cat Morgan exactly 15 years ago today, in Texas, as an early birthday present.  A heartfelt "thank you" for both of these things, Joe.)

And we got started in the 80’s. I mean, this is spooky, right? Très Jung.

(and one more spooky thing:  we both started strictly with crochet, and crocheted for some time before being inspired to learn to knit.)

Xmas Card

Synchronicities aside, the reason I started knitting was because I happened to be reading a women’s magazine one day, and there they were – really cute sweaters for really cute little kids.

I knitted these because my sister had, a few years earlier, given birth to two of the cutest little people ever. I made these for her annual Christmas photo.  Here they are, in all their glory.

As far as I know, Tess never knitted these – but if she has, turn up the volume on the TZ theme song…

(I didn’t knit these, but I did decide I had to learn to knit after seeing many knit vs. crocheted sweaters in women’s magazines!)

Now they’re late-twenty-somethings. I can’t quite get used to it. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still really cute, but you can’t get them to pose for Christmas photos in matching sweaters anymore.

My DH and I got a scanner recently that can handle slides – remember slides, Tess? Nah. Probably not. They were an ancient way of taking photographs before digital photography was invented. Anyway, I ran across this slide of me, a late-twenty-something myself, holding these my first sweaters:


I still can’t believe I did that. They came out better than I expected. I was a knitter from that day forward. I never did have any fashion sense, though. Don’t you just dig those enormous plastic glasses frames? I think I still have those, come to think of it. I use them for painting and working with power tools. Best dang safety glasses ever. But there’s no way around it – they’re hideous now, and they were back then, too.

I went on to knit a few more sweaters for the cutest kids ever. Here’s my nephew in a Norwegian pullover making sure it will keep him warm in the snow:  nephew

And here’s my niece, who evidently decided she could make the same determination without getting snow on her midsection:niece




And, well, it’s just snowballed from there.

(ha, ha, I get it.  snowballed!)

I kept at it.  My stash grew in size until it could eat New York.  I have yarns in my stash that date from this era, in fact.  I’m seldom more than a few meters from something I’m knitting.

I’ve hidden knitting to sneak it past people controlling what gets brought into some venue (I ask you, is a half-finished sock going to bother anything at the film society screening in the art museum?)  I’ve made lists of my projects during long, dull meetings where it would be too obvious to work on the actual knitting itself.

There isn’t a sign of addiction that I don’t show.  But it all started with two books back a few decades ago, apparently in sync with at least one other knitter.

Tess, if we find out there are more of us, does that mean we were all kidnapped by the same aliens?

Trish C


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Happy Birthday to Me!

As part of "fun weekend", DH and I went and visited a place on the other side of the river, called "SCRAP".

SCRAP — The School and Community Reuse Action Project — is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and our mission is to promote creative reuse and environmentally sustainable behavior by providing educational programs and affordable materials to the community.

Actually, I told DH he didn’t have to go, but he claimed to be interested and curious.

And it was an interesting place!  I’m a big fan of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" concept, certainly on a personal level — but this place takes it up a notch, and adds "art".  Thus, it could probably only feasibly exist here in odd-but-lovable, green, artistic PDX.

It’s kind of a cross between a thrift store and a garage sale, but all centered around craft items, or potential craft items.  If you are in need of old slides, pieces of tile, fabric, carpet samples, or plastic keychains for some artistic vision you’ve been nurturing in the back of your head, then this is the place for you.  And cheap, too.

I ended up buying a whole bunch of odds and ends:scrapstuff

  • about a ton of 11 x 17 glossy paper ($1.50 per inch),
  • a MOHAIR brush (used to fluff up the fuzz on your MOHAIR garments),
  • some Dylon cold water dye in "Dawn Pink",
  • five cones of natural color laceweight wool (potentially a MOHAIR blend),
  • a wallpaper sample book,
  • a funky cat stamp,
  • some dry erase board samples (useful for teaching),
  • a book on ribbon embroidery,
  • and another book on temari (which I got mainly for the color and pattern inspiration, rather than any actual urge to wrap embroidery floss around balls.  No matter how decoratively it is done.)

And I only spent about $20 for all these goodies.  Plus I spent at least an hour, just sort of wandering around with my mouth open, looking at all the "junque".  You just can’t get that kind of entertainment in a movie theater, Sandi.  (And while S. may not totally understand the allure of visiting a big room full of crap "stuff", I know she’ll appreciate this next part.)

While all that stuff I got looks like a lot of potential fun — the killer item turned out to be the 4 old Vogue Knitting mags I got for 10 cents apiece.

It was strange, I thought at the time, that I only recognized the covers of two of them.  After all, I have practically all the VK mags from the current incarnation of the magazine, going clear back to the early 80’s (and quite a few from the previous incarnation, in the 60’s).

I bought all 4 mags regardless, thinking I could give them to knitting friends or something.  I hate to see old VK’s languishing, unloved, anywhere.  And there was so much else to gawk at see at SCRAP that I didn’t even crack ’em open, I just bought ’ old VK mags

When I got ’em home, though, I discovered that those two unrecognized issues were unrecognizable for a reason:  I was indeed missing the Fall ’96 and Fall ’97 issues.  And I found both of them in one place, for less than a quarter!!

So I now have TWO old-but-brand-new-to-me VK mags to spend some quality time with!!  I’m considering this to be an early birthday present from the knitting gods, and I plan to save them and enjoy them thoroughly on the Big Day in a couple of weeks (if I can wait that long, that is).

I tried to explain to DH how totally cool this is.  He seemed unimpressed.

I’m really not sure how I missed those two issues in the first place.  My only potential excuse is that in the fall of ’96 we got engaged, and in the fall of ’97 we got married.  This works for me, because then it’s pretty much all DH’s fault.

I also tried to explain how unbelieveable it was to find not one, but two missing issues in one fell swoop.  To that end, I even calculated the odds (though unfortunately DH is still pretty unimpressed):

  • There have been 82 issues of VK published from F/W 1982 through Hol 2007.
  • There were only 7 issues I didn’t have.  Therefore, the chance of picking up any VK mag and having it be one I did not already own was 7 out of 82, or 0.085%.  Slightly less than 1 in 10.  Of course, this is straight odds, and does not take into account the rarity effect — i.e. there are a whole lot more VKs from 2006 lying around out there than ones from 1996, let alone 1986.  I can tell you from personal experience that in reality, the odds are a lot lower than that.
  • The straight odds of picking up any TWO missing mags is 7 out of 82 for the first one, and only 6 out of 82 for the second one.  Multiply those two together and you get a chance of about 3 times out of 500.  Granted, maybe I have picked up about 500 old VKs looking for the ones I don’t have… but throw in the rarity effect, and those odds skyrocket.

I am one lucky girl!


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Best. Advice. Ever.

The most important piece of knitting advice I ever found was in the Holiday ’87 issue of Vogue Knitting.  (I must have found it while I was knitting those lousy boyfriend sweaters.)

A wonderful knitter wrote a letter to the editor which made a very strong impression on me, and it greatly influenced my knitting success.  In the spirit of the current topic over at Knitting Daily, this woman’s letter largely influenced how I became a "fearless knitter."

A word of advice to new knitters.  I learned to knit and purl at age six, so have spent 23 of my 29 years knitting like a maniac.   One of the first things I ever did was really STUDY knit and purl stitches.  Make a rather large swatch (stockinette stitch) with fairly large needles and an even yarn.  Don’t bind off, but remove knitting from needles, and practice losing and re-picking up stitches.  A clear understanding of how a stitch works and looks will allow errors to be easily repaired.  Remember, that all knitting is just that — knit and purl stitches.  You may change the order of the stitches (like with a cable), but it’s no more complicated than that.  Figure out those stitches, and a lot of headaches are over.

It’s more than 20 years later.  This woman can’t possibly know how much she did for me, and probably many other knitters, with that short but brilliant letter.  I offer her my heartfelt gratitude for my own lifetime of knitting happiness.

May the knitting deities smile on Susan forever, wherever she is — and happy 50th birthday, too!

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The upsurge in the popularity of knitting in the past half-dozen years or so, coupled with the Internet, has been a mixed blessing to me.  Browsing the online knitting world, I am continually reminded that there are all kinds of knitters, many of whom I probably have little or nothing in common with.

It took me a while to figure out why "knitting" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone.  "Knitting" is really a medium, like "painting".  Within each of those media, there is a truly breathtaking variety of scope.  For example, in painting, there are:  

  • those who paint in acrylic, and those who paint in oils;
  • those who paint the cathedral at Rouen, and those who paint "Dogs Playing Poker";
  • those who paint portraits on canvas, and those who paint siding on houses. 

As well, I imagine there are

  • those who swear by Brand A of paint, and those who think Brand A is complete crap.

Sounds like knitting, huh?

I do have strong personal opinions on the subject of knitting, so I used to get far too annoyed at the oddball "stuff" some people insist on knitting.  I mean, this is KNITTING we are talking about, which is practically a religion for me.  But having had the above revelation, I now am secure in knowing that My Idea of Knitting is, well, mine, and no one can take that away from me — no matter what bizarre, unattractive items they may be knitting for themselves.

So, I no longer get myself in such a tizzy — though I cannot repress a delicate shudder — when I see that there is a brand new book out on knitted toilet paper covers.  (For those of you who must… click here to see it on Toilet Roll Covers .)

I mean, honestly, isn't this kind of thing best left to crochet?

OK, OK.  That was either a joke, or just one person's lousy humble opinion, depending on whether you found it funny or annoying.  Take your pick.

But, it probably behooves a knitter to figure out where she stands in the knitting world, if for no other reason than it will save her a lot of time.

What kinds of knitters are there?  A lot of times you see debate about product vs process knitters:  those who knit to produce an end result, and those who simply enjoy the act of knitting and don't care if they ever produce anything.  I suppose you could consider yourself to be squarely in one camp or the other — if I had to choose, I'd have to be a product knitter — but if you held a gun to my head and forced me to knit a TP cover, I still don't think I'd be all jazzed about the product.

In my experience, the product vs. process thing really comes more into play during project selection, as opposed to the actual knitting.  For example, I will never choose to knit a project based solely on the "yummy yarn".  Fabulous fiber or no, it's still got to be something I want to make.  That TP cover could be in beautiful pink MOHAIR, with sequins and marabou, and you'd still have to hold that gun to my head to make me knit it.

So forget process and product.  As politically un-correct as it may be, here are some of the categories I've mentally compiled —

Craft Knitting:  knitting a decorative knick-knack, or an entirely impractical object — mostly product-related.  The aforementioned TP covers fall into this category, as well as cupcakes, and any item that would be at home in a publication with the word "bazaar" in the title.  Often these are short-lived and look pretty funny just a few years down the road.  Of course, the incomparable Stitchy McYarnpants has some great ones in her Museum of Kitschy Stitches – here's a fave.

Art Knitting:  knitting to express an emotion or to make a statement — often process-related.  A good example of this would be the knitted Ferrari.  Another would be the woman who is knitting a big nothing piece of knitting, in order to show us what a lifetime of knitting looks like.  I think I saw this article in an Interweave Knits, probably within the last year or two, but I can't remember exactly and can't find it with Google.  (If anyone else remembers this, please enlighten us all.)

ETA:  I found it again!  The artist is Germaine Koh, and you can read more about this and her other projects at her site.

Admittedly, the line between these two categories is a little blurred, but I think in order to make it into the second category, it has to look like it took a lot of time to do.

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should:  here is where I put the knitted digestive system, the knitted uterus, and the knitted dissected frog that I've only heard about.  You can Google that one yourself, because I had enough trouble dealing with the actual frog in junior high, and I'm not going looking for it.  I suppose these things could be considered Art Knitting, but I don't.

What these all have in common is, these kinds of knitting are relatively new.  Leaving aside such wild and crazy stuff, there is the kind of knitting that most knitters do, and that most knitters have done throughout the ages.  What do we call that?  My first thought is Garment Knitting, because for me it is and always has been all about the clothes.  But that doesn't include socks, scarves, bags, hats, gloves, throws, and the like:  Classic Knitting.

Historically, knitters knit because they had to, in order to have something to wear.  This is what knitting has been used for throughout centuries:  clothing the human body, usually for warmth.  Before now, knitting has always had a use, a practical aspect, which is probably one of the things I love about it.  It wasn't something anyone did solely for fun.

In fact, this aspect of "usefulness" or "utility" is the reason you can't copyright, say, a sock:  even if you have come up with a completely revolutionary way to make said sock.  All you can copyright is your presentation of the instructions to make said sock.  Works of art can be copyrighted, but not socks.  Because socks are considered to be practical, not works of art.

However, the concept of "utility" doesn't rule out the idea of taking something that you have to do anyway, and doing it with style:  For example, Middle Eastern and Estonian knitters throughout history have made useful socks that are also works of art, even though their knitting time was limited — of course, they generally knit these items for special occasions such as weddings.

Our generation is one of the first to be able to treat knitting as a creative art form, as opposed to a practical craft of necessity.

While I'm never going to spend a single minute of my time knitting a Ferrari or a uterus:  just think about that for a minute, and think about how lucky we are!

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Hubby’s Socks and the Three Toes

Well, on Sunday evening (Sunday the 13th!) I finally cast on another pair of socks for DH.

The yarn is Lana Grossa "Meilenweit 6 fach" in a true solid dark green – his favorite color.  I like doing toe-up socks, so I don’t have to bother too much with a gauge swatch or any math or anything.  I figured I’d just increase until the toe was the right size, eh?

Also, since his astrological sign is Aquarius, I’d been toying with the idea of trying out the "Age of Aquarius" socks from Knitter’s Stash And of course, all you Aquarians will realize this means his birthday is coming up soon.  So, I voiced the possibility that these could be considered "birthday socks".

His response was, "Why can’t they just be Don’s-a-helluva-guy socks?"

I guess this means he wants more than "just" socks for his birthday present.  Given the scarcity of socks for him on the needles, though, I think he is on thin ice.  (It crossed my mind, after that smart-aleck remark, that I could just not knit them, and tell him they are now indeed "birthday socks", to go with his "birthday suit".)

Anyway, I used Judy Becker’s certainly-very-clever-but-not-really-magical cast on, and started working my way up the toe, using my favorite increase method of "make 1, YO", which I learned out of Priscilla Gibson-Roberts "Ethnic Socks & Stockings".

The Aquarius pattern is charted over 17 sts, so when I got up to 52 sts on my toe, I started the chart, doing a k2tog mid-round to get down to 51 sts.  Of course, you probably have already figured out what I, in the pursuit of a multiple of 17, had not:  51 sts on size 1 needles is not a big enough sock for DH.   I, too, realized it fairly soon — but I did a few repeats of the chart anyway, just to see how it looked – would it be worth futzing with the chart to get it to work with a proper-size sock?  No.  To be honest, it looked kind of boring.

I left it on DH’s dresser with a note (he gets up way early) saying I thought it was too small, but for him to try it and see what he thinks. Yup, definitely too small.  And he wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about the pattern, either ("It’s OK").

So, Monday evening I ripped that out (forgot to take a picture first, sorry) — and did some more increasing, this time comparing the toe width to a tracing of the "perfect" size Colinette sock.  I went up to 64 sts and did a couple of rounds.  Hmmm.  DH tried it on again and thought it was pretty good, but I knew better.  Just a smidge too big.

We also had a brief discussion about whether he prefers the instep to be patterned, or plain stockinette.  (Darn.  He prefers pattern.  There goes the "easy plain stockinette foot" idea.)  Finally, I had him look through a few potential st patterns to find something he might like, since the Aquarius pattern was out.  Then he went to bed while I ripped out a couple of rounds, and settled on 60 sts.

sm_greensockI started out on the foot with his first pattern choice, "Granite Rib" from my 365 Knitting Sts a Year calendar (April 20), but it kinda just looked like mush.  So, a bit more ripping back. His second choice was "Textured Ribbing" from the same source (May 5).  And it looks like we have a winner!  The only thing I don’t like about it was that I couldn’t properly center the 6-stitch multiple on the instep.  I consoled myself by figuring I’ll make the other sock a mirror image, at least.  DH will never notice unless I tell him.

I did ~20 rounds or so, and again left it on his dresser with a note asking for his opinion.  I got "It’s Good!  XO" scribbled back, so I guess we’re on our way to living happily ever after…

The End.

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Out of the box

Fact:  boxy, square sweaters hide anything you’ve got worth showing.

An image consultant came to one of our local knitting guild meetings a couple of years ago.  She had a handout that showed some “before” and “after” pictures of women dressed in various clothing styles, which either suited and enhanced their body shapes, or didn’t. Here are some statements from the “before” pictures about “what’s not working”:

  • Extra fabric at mid-torso
  • Boxy jacket silhouette
  • Gathers at waistband (think about ribbing!)
  • Boxy, straight shirt
  • Absence of implied waist

Notice any trend here?

A straight-sided, boxy, shapeless sweater does nothing for a woman’s silhouette. (At least, nothing positive.)

A shapely sweater, OTOH, will enhance curves that are there — or it can give an illusion of curves that are not there.

A big turning point in my personal knitting life came after completing Sally Melville’s "Simple Cardigan" from the Purl Stitch book, and not being happy with it. While it does have some mild underarm shaping, in the body it is totally boxy, and it just doesn’t do me any favors. I decided to never again spend time, money, or effort on knitting a garment that doesn’t have side shaping. Consider this an invitation to join me in my knitting pledge.

Now, I’m not talking about TIGHT sweaters. I’m talking about sweaters that FIT, with some contours to follow the body.

Granted, the boxy look can be cute on some women (usually young, thin ones) – and they are great for men. But guess what, girls? – women look better with curves. And remember too, that shapeless, boxy sweaters take up extra yarn and extra time.

Hmmm… I’m more in favor of polishing up your knitting skills and learning how to do some simple shaping, or even learning how to add it to a pattern that doesn’t have it.

So — well and good — but how do you avoid making a shapeless sweater that has been doctored up in the photo to look like something it isn’t?

Sometimes you can get a clue just from the picture. The sweater may simply look suspicious, like the fabric is being pulled to the back to be wadded up behind the model. The sweater may not fit properly: the shoulders may not sit right on the model. A sure giveaway is if the rows look distorted: in other words, they are not hanging straight but instead look as if as if they are being pulled to the back.

One memorable example of this was in a KnitScene magazine, I think, a couple of years ago. They had a pale aqua, bulky knit raglan pullover on a model with long red wavy hair. The fit of the raglan lines was just so wrong — they were up over her shoulders if I remember correctly — that I had to look at the instructions to see what was up. Turned out the pattern was given in exactly two finished sizes: something like a 34", and something like a 56". Obviously the model garment had been knit in the 56" size, and they must have had to wad up about half of it behind the model’s back for the photo shoot.

But the most reliable way to tell what shape a sweater really is, is to check the schematic. If it’s got straight sides, well, there’s your answer.

The one exception I can think of is a sweater with negative ease, i.e. where the knitting is expected to stretch to fit and hug the body. As an example, my [Sassy->] sweater is just a big tube of ribbing with no side shaping. As the tube is somewhat smaller than my body, though, when I put it on, it conforms nicely to my curves.

Side note: schematics are important. If you are considering a pattern with no schematic, I strongly urge you to pass, and instead look for a similar pattern that does have one. Schematics are useful in knitting, fitting, and finishing, and are a sign of thoughtful design. Lack of a schematic is a big red flag, especially given modern publishing technology. There are too many knitting patterns available out there to justify knitting a mystery garment.

I used to have a sweater that I knit which was oversized, boxy, and straight. The fabric was a really fabulous blend of 2 natural color yarns, in seed st, and practically every time I wore it, I would get compliments (one was from a gentleman who correctly identified the st pattern – turned out he had knit his own socks in wartime!).

BUT – the compliments were aimed at the sweater: "My, that’s a lovely sweater."

Picky person that I am, I think it’s more of a compliment when someone says, "You look wonderful in that sweater!"

Now, I’m not saying that total strangers are likely to say this in public. But even my husband, when he found out I had given away the sweater, said something like, "But that was such a nice sweater."

Granted, straight sweaters are easy to design, easy to knit, comfy to wear. But think about what you want to spend your precious knitting time on:  miles of stockinette that covers you up? or creating a sweater that fits you and your curves, in a color that looks fabulous on you, with details appropriate to your body shape, and that garners you the ultimate compliment:

"That sweater looks like it was made for you!"

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FO’s from Knitter’s Stash

OK, here’s the ONE Xmas present I knitted this year – but it is darned cute. It’s a double-knitted teddy bear from the book “Knitter’s Stash”. The book’s been around a while, but I don't actually own it (the library does, though!) so this is only the second thing I’ve knit out of it.teddybear

The teddy bear is actually a very slick piece of design work. Usually in double knitting, in order to get a tube of stockinette st, you have to

** K1, then slip 1 with yarn in front ** 

which requires a yarn position change on every st and is a bit slow at best (for Continental knitters) and a complete headache at worst (for throwers).

However, this bear is double-knit in reverse stockinette st – which means the purl side is on the outside – which means all you have to do is

** K1, then slip 1 with yarn in back **

or in fewer words:

** K1, slip 1 ** merrily along, with no yarn position changes!

While I generally am considered to be a fast knitter, even I was a bit surprised at how fast this bear went. I started it late on a Sunday afternoon and it was completely knitted by Weds. And I don’t knit 24/7 by any means.

The original pattern used a single strand of shiny fake fur yarn.  I combined a strand of shiny fake fur with a strand of a fuzzier yarn, for a cuddlier fabric. I bumped up to US size 11 needles, and I used up very nearly the entire ball of the second yarn (= 96 yards).  I wound up with a 16-inch-tall bear.

The other big thing the reverse stockinette buys you here is more of the fur stays on the outside. Any time you are working with fur, sequins, fuzz, or what-have-you, the tendency is for the texture to remain on the purl side of the fabric, because (in engineering terms) it requires you to put more energy into the system to drag it on through to the knit side. This often translates to picking sequins through to the right side, one freakin’ sequin at a time. But since this bear is inside-out, as it were, the fur tends to naturally remain on the outside. What genius!

The only thing I dislike is the title of the pattern:  "Magic Friends".  I have a personal peeve about the use of the word “magic” to describe things in knitting.  It ain’t magic, folks, and it’s not even rocket science. It is very clever, though.

The bear is for a 1-year-old, so I made the facial features by crocheting directly on the bear's head, and I also glued on the bow.

The other FO I have done from this book was an Xmas gift for Sandi, the owner of Farmhouse Knit Shop. (I hope need not explain why the “Farmhouse Rug” was an obvious choice.) This was knit several years ago now, for Xmas 2004, in Mission Falls 1824 wool (doubled).


Morgan was quite interested in the blocking process.  I included him partly because I love my cat more than just about anything (even MOHAIR), and partly for scale.  Morgan is a big cat:  he's about 2 feet long from head to butt (not including tail).  It's a good-sized rug, folks!  It has to be around 3 feet wide.

Yes, I am rather proud of the back of it, thank you. That's a double thickness of heavy-weight canvas fabric, fused together, and hand-sewn all the freakin' way around.  It was a bitch to sew, I can tell you.

Apparently I took the picture of the rug front being blocked in mid-November, and didn't get the picture of the back taken until mid-December.  As I recall, there was a distinct lack of information about how to back a hand-knit rug; I found this technique in an old library book on rug-making. 


I am also rather proud of the selvedges. I was smart enough to work a crochet provisional cast-on, and chain selvedges up the sides – which techniques mimic the look of a standard bound-off edge – so all 4 edges match.  AND I was smart enough to think of it before I got halfway through!

The one issue I had was with the rust-colored garter st border.  It's not terribly obvious from the way they charted it, but that's supposed to be PURLED garter st.  Turns out it doesn't really matter until you get to the top edge, and find out that first row of the top rust border is a WS row, and it has to be purled, or else you wind up with a lot of colorful blue sky purl bumps on the RS across the top.  (I bet I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong.  You can't just work an extra row of sky.  See that black-and-white checked border?  Very geometric.  Five rows each block, I believe.)

My solution was to rip back a few rows (very few) and insert one row of reverse stockinette in the border – in other words, purl one row of the border on a RS row – to switch the border from knits to purls.  Reverse stockinette looks an awful lot like garter, and while I know where the switch occurs, I suspect it would take a while for anyone else to find it if they knew about it.  Partly because you can't take the easy way out and look at the WS to find the row of stockinette, because of that fabulous backing.   (HINT:  it's not terribly far down from that first full rust-colored row, where I started swearing.)

Would it have killed them to put a one-line note at the beginning of the pattern?  Oh, BTW, you'll need to purl that garter st border, not knit it.  Happy Holidays.

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Worth a thousand words, or not?

Q. When is a picture NOT worth a thousand words?


A.  When it is a BFL (Big Fat Lie).  

One of my biggest knitting peeves is photography in knitting publications that is a deliberate misrepresentation of the article in question.  (A close second is "artsy" photography, at the expense of seeing what the garment actually looks like.)

The most common photography trick I see is when they take a sweater that has no side shaping whatsoever — usually billed as "easy to knit" somewhere in the description (which it is) — and make it look as if it is shaped.  This is easily accomplished by wadding up a bunch of the extra material behind the model’s back and simply securing it with a rubber band or a clip. Voila! Curves!

You can see this being done all the time in retail, on the mannequins. But at least when shopping retail, where you can go try on the item, you have a fighting chance. Not so for the knitter, who picks a project based on the pretty picture, and finds herself with a finished garment that isn’t what she thought it would be — or worse, an unfinished garment!

On top of that, I imagine a knitter who knits up one of these garments, tries it on, looks in the mirror, and then, disappointed, sadly figures that the reason it doesn’t look like it did on the model is her own fault, because she herself isn’t built like a model.

But it can get a lot worse than that.  A few years ago now, I heard Kristin Spurkland relate this story of a design she had submitted to a magazine.  To the best of my recollection:

She designed a fairly plain pullover with a large, face-framing, standaway collar as the focal point.  The magazine paid her for the design, and when the issue came out, she flipped through it looking for her sweater.  She didn’t recognize it the first time through.  She had to go back through the magazine again, page by page, to find it.

First of all, they had embellished the front of the sweater with a big ol’ snowflake made of white buttons.  I remember clearly, and repeat verbatim, what Kristin said:  "I’m not dissin’ the snowflake, but it wasn’t my design."

Snowflake, whatever, fine, OK.  You could always decide to leave that off.  But the unforgiveable part was that they photographed it on a woman who was supposed to be baking cookies or something, flanked by two smiling children, and she was looking down at what she was doing, and her hair hung down over her shoulders and entirely covered the large collar.  I saw the picture myself.  You couldn’t see the collar at all.

Paraphrasing Kristin’s words, she said she always felt sorry for the poor knitters who went to make what they probably thought was a basic crewneck sweater, and then out of nowhere this big ol’ collar pops up.  Even worse, thinking about it now — I am not sure that the collar would even show up on the schematic, if it were something that was to be picked up and worked later.  In that case, the knitter would pretty much just be screwed. 

I tend to think of magazines as being the big offenders, because they have tighter deadlines, and I suspect when you work at a magazine there’s a certain amount of "oh, well — there’s always the next issue".  But lately I see more and more books out there with deceptive photos, lousy information, or just plain mistakes.

One of my students came to class with a question about a baby sweater she was knitting.  She had bought a book written by a fairly well-known British designer of children’s knits, and was making a cute little wraparound-style sweater for a 6 month old baby.

The directions had her start by knitting a long, ~2" wide strip — and she was mystified as to what part of the sweater she was doing.  The front band, perhaps? I read through the pattern — there was no schematic, for which I think there is just NO EXCUSE in a published knitting book in this day and age — and finally, I told her she was knitting the tie.  "What tie?" she asked.

"Well, the ties that go from either side of the waist here and tie in a big bow in the back," I told her.

She was horrified.  "But this is for a baby who can’t even sit up yet!" she all but wailed, and I truly think she was near tears.

We all looked at the 2 available pictures in the book.  Both of them showed an adorable little blond toddler girl, in a cute pink wraparound sweater, photographed directly from the front, with her arms firmly down at her sides.  Absolutely no evidence of the ties.  One could go so far as to suggest they might have been deliberately hiding the ties.  The one tie that my student had already knitted certainly suggested to me that the bow in the back was going to be enormously bulky and unattractive.

I tried to tell her that she could change the knitted ties to ribbons, or replace them with buttons — either of which would, in effect, give her the sweater she THOUGHT she was knitting.  (And why they didn’t do that in the book, I’ll never, ever know.  Although one extremely negative possibility is that the addition of the knitted ties means they get to sell you another ball or two of yarn…)

But I could tell from her face that no matter what we did to pick up the pieces, the project was now ruined for her.  Here she had trusted the name on the book, spent the money, bought the specified, pricey, designer yarn — and spent a lot of time knitting that stupid tie, to boot.  Now she felt betrayed, as if she had been lied to — and frankly, I think she had been. 

To date, I have only ever written one review on [Amazon ->], which was about a current knitting book.  I wrote it because I felt (and obviously still feel) very strongly about this subject.  You can read the whole thing here at Amazon, but I will self-plagiarize the gist of it here: 

Too many knitting publishers are now trying to take advantage of the popularity of the sport, and are flooding the market with substandard books. No repercussions occur to them – but I imagine the poor knitter who spends hours of work, and cries tears of frustration – and it makes me angry.

I doubt much of the blame falls on the designers, necessarily.  Usually the kinds of decisions that end up causing problems for knitters — to skimp on the proofreading, for example, or to not put in schematics or to doctor a photo — are not in the designer’s hands.  They are made to cut costs or meet deadlines, and they are business decisions, made by publishers.

Unfortunately for us, though, it is not going to be the publishers who pay the price for the unethical decisions or the shoddy proofreading.  They have made their money, off this hot trendy thing called "knitting" that a large demographic (with money in their pockets!) happens to be interested in, and henceforth they will never give it another thought.  Instead it is the knitters who will pay the price, and the teachers like me who will end up consoling them, and trying to rescue something unfortunate.  And that is what makes me so very angry.

This hot trendy "knitting" thing is something that I love, that I’ve been doing practically my whole life, and undoubtedly I’ve made a looooong list of unfortunate projects myself.  I suppose I am lucky to have cut my teeth on Vogue Knitting when it was in what I think of as its heyday — because 20 years ago, I could always trace my disappointment back to some decision of my own:  a poor choice of color combination, or a yarn substitution that had (ahem) unexpected repercussions.

Now that’s changed, and for the newer knitters out there, who may not have my wealth of experience in personal knitting disasters to draw on, well — let’s be careful out there.

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This year, while DH was off at the Sasquatch festival over Memorial Day weekend, I decided to clean out my closet. I hadn’t done a thorough job of this in about 6 years, during which time:

  • we moved from TX to OR,
  • I quit my day job, and
  • I lost ~10 pounds (from not eating fast food for lunch at work every day!)

Obviously, it was high time for a purge, just from the lifestyle changes.

But also, I was feeling pretty dismayed about how non-cute my wardrobe had become, and I felt like I was old and didn’t know how to dress anymore. For a person who has always had an abiding love of clothing & fashion, this was tres distressing. (In my defense, I had one other big life change, which put a damper on a lot of things: both my parents had passed away. Kinda makes you not care so much about clothes for a while.)

Anyway, in preparation for the Big Closet Cleaning Event, I read and re-read a lot of books along the lines of “how to clean out your closet” etc. Also I spent some time looking through copies of InStyle, my favorite fashion magazine. I figured I already knew a lot about personal style and clothing – I was sure I just needed a little refresher on modernizing my look. Instead, I experienced a complete wardrobe paradigm shift.

One book suggested collecting “tear sheets” of stuff you see in catalogs and magazines that you like, and then making a collage of them. I already had a pile of tear sheets, so I thought I’d try it. I sat down with scissors, a big piece of cardboard, and spray adhesive, and collaged away (it was a ton of fun, BTW). Then I sat back and took a look at my creation. And boy, was I shocked!!

The collage looked very cute, very cool, and very UNLIKE PRACTICALLY EVERYTHING IN MY CLOSET. Towards the end of the weekend, in another book (Full Frontal Fashion), I stumbled over the word that summed up the look of the collage, and the word I’ve now adopted as the acid test for my wardrobe choices.

The word is “sassy".

Over that long weekend, I realized that, for years, I’d been dressing and shopping for my job as an engineer. Even, to some extent, after I’d quit.  In my 11 year engineering career, I held three different jobs at three different companies, and experienced difficulties related to being an attractive female in every one of them. But, Being An Engineer was a big part of my identity, so I chose clothing in styles that played down my femininity, even off the job.

I’d especially been avoiding styles that were cute, revealing, body-hugging, or sexy. Nothing that was fitted. No v-necks. No sheer fabrics. No “fun” accessories; no belts to emphasize the waistline or the hips. No lace, lacing, beads, sequins, ruffles, or bows…

…but that’s what was all over my collage.

No wonder I was unhappy with all my clothes!

How on earth, do you ask, does this have anything to do with knitting? Well, unfortunately, this lack of sassiness also seems to apply to many of the things I have knitted to date. Now that the weather is getting cooler here and I’m digging out the handknits again, I am realizing that most of them are JUST NOT SASSY. sm_ribbedpull.jpg

Thus, being a woman of action, I have joined the Sexy Knitter’s Club, though I have not yet joined in a knit-along. I have vowed from here on out to only knit things that fit the sassy bill. And here is one of the first FO’s in that category.

It started out as a version of Jenna Adorno’s “Tempting", which was in Knitty’s Winter 2004 issue, and can be found here. I also liked her “Ultra Femme” sweater in “Stich & Bitch Nation", of which I don’t have a pic – but it starts out similarly at the bottom, then switches to fine mohair at the waistline and shows a whole lot of black bra underneath. Hmmm. Maybe a little TOO sassy?

So I kept the idea of the yarn change, but moved it up to a more modest point. Finally, I ditched the ribbon tie around the neck, and added standard raglan shaping instead. Voila! SASSY!

Yarns used: bottom: Brown Sheep "Cotton Fleece" in "Twilight Green" top: Cleckheaton "Flowerdale"


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Then and…Where?

Many of my knitting friends know that I love, love, LOVE old knitting books. Old VKs are a fave, but I’ll thumb through just about anything. (And I have the overflowing bookshelf in my studio to prove it.) Often you can find a stitch pattern, a silhouette, or a detail that will spark an idea. Looking at vintage styles is a great way to train your eye to distinguish between short-lived trends and enduring classics. Most knitters I know don’t want to knit a sweater that will be out of style next year. After all that work, they want something that will be wearable for a while. If you can open a 40-year-old book and spot something that still looks good, you have a pretty good idea that it will look good for another 40 years! Vogue Knitting used to have a feature in every issue called “Then and Now", which was by far the best thing in the magazine. They would take an old style from a vintage issue and make up a modern version, using current yarns and colors. Occasionally they modified the fit a bit, but mostly the copy was true to the original. Unfortunately, and unfathomably, they stopped doing it. It became hit-or-miss in the mid-to-late nineties, and by now has apparently been given up completely. I have no idea why on earth they discontinued this feature! Now I can only count myself lucky that I learned this concept early in my knitting career. sm_mo_vest.jpgsm_vestad1.jpg Here’s my latest vintage knit – a skimpy black vest, made in my fave fiber (mohair) – along with the modern ad that had me looking around for skimpy vests.

sm_vintvestorig.jpgsm_vintvestcover.jpg Compare my version to the original vintage pattern pic. And just in case anyone else wants to find it, here is the cover of the vintage Spinnerin book it is in.

Interesting note: the vintage directions do not result in the somewhat odd sleeves shown in the vintage picture. (I guess typos in knitting patterns have been around as long as there have been patterns.) You would have to cast on some extra sts at the armholes to get the silhouette shown, and the instructions don’t call for that at all. I knitted the armholes according to the directions, although I modified the original instructions to knit it all in one piece, eliminating the side seams. Great stuff!

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(Breaking) the Sweater Curse

So, you may have noticed that in the previous post, I said that my sister was knitting a sweater for her fiance.betsandmark

YIKES! but what about the famous, infamous Sweater Curse

I didn’t know about the Sweater Curse then: I was only 6, after all. The Curse didn’t work on her though, because my sister did get married that next April, 1975. And thirty-plus years later, Bets & Mark are still married, he still has the sweater, and it still fits. I finally got to see it again, on the occasion of the wedding of their eldest daughter. A navy-blue, top-down raglan – thankfully, it was in a nice wool.

(I admit to having been worried that it might have been in some nasty synthetic something. It was the 70’s, after all.)

Conversely, and it seems to me rather unfairly, I personally lived and knitted the sweater curse THREE FREAKIN’ TIMES before wising up. Three fabulous VK sweaters wasted upon S. L., J. B. P., and R. M.  And I do not have a single one of those sweaters any more. The pictures are from the original VK mags. curse1

1: from Vogue Knitting, Holiday ’87

S. L. got away with his. After this first mistake, I figured out that, after all that work, keeping the damned thing was a good move (the sweater, not the goofball D & D role-playing boyfriend).



2: also from Vogue Knitting, Holiday ’87

I have to admit, I can’t remember what eventually happened to the one I made for J. B. P. I kept it for a while, but probably it went to Goodwill in the end. This was one of my first attempts at Fair Isle, and it was pretty good, except for the one row of "lus" right smack across the chest which was a bit on the tight side. 


3: from Vogue Knitting, Holiday ‘88 (I branched out a smidge)

(Is it me, or does this sweater REALLY look like a chain link fence?)curse3

sm_tx_fair_ribbon.jpg The one for R. M. didn’t even get finished before the Curse took its toll, and it sent me into a knitting drought of about 5 years.

Part of the reason for this was that I graduated from engineering school, and took a job in Tex-ass, which is not known as a place where there is a need for warm, wool sweaters.

(That was also part of the reason we broke up, BTW. He was living in Spokane, and wanted to move back to Ohio. Let me repeat that: he WANTED to move back to OHIO.)

I eventually finished the sweater though, with the goal of entering it in the Texas State Fair. I got third place, too. And I ended up giving that sweater away to a co-worker.

You may have noticed that all these photos show happy, beautiful couples, head over heels in love, wearing lovely handknit sweaters. Guess what? They are being paid to look like that.  Not that I’m bitter, or anything. donssweater

I finally knitted a sweater for DH, after 5 years of marriage – that was 5 years ago and so far, so good.  It’s a version of "Jay’s Silk Pullover" out of "Simply Beautiful Sweaters for Men" by the gals at Tricoter.

(Hmmm…  This garment is not a VK sweater, so maybe that has something to do with it.)

Mind you, he doesn’t wear it often – it is wool, knit in a garter tweed, so it’s rather thick fabric and darned warm.

So, now he gets socks. Occasionally.

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