100 yard ngora Fingerless Mittsw

Angora Fingerless Mitts

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100 yard Angora Fingerless MittsA while ago, I went to a fiber show and picked up 100 yards of hand spun fingering weight angora. I asked the seller what I could reasonably make with such a small quantity and she said fingerless mitts. But when I went online, all the patterns called for more than 100 yards. Plus, I really wanted to use up as much of the yarn as possible. So, I wrote my own pattern and shared it with a friend.

Then, in September, I went to another fiber show and got some more angora. I had several people ask me what I planned to make with it and express an interest in the pattern when I told them. So I have written the pattern and its on Ravelry. The pattern is very simple because Angora really blooms after you wear it a few times (gets fuzzier), so any really complex pattern would be lost.

What do you think of my fingerless mitts?

tardis-scarf

TARDIS Scarf Pattern Now Available!

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TARDIS scarf made with fingering (sock) weight yarn.

TARDIS scarf made with fingering (sock) weight yarn.

I was inspired to design this, my first for-sale pattern, when I found a really nice, free shawl pattern with TARDIS motifs. I was going to make that pattern because I had the perfect color yarn, but I didn’t have quite enough. I thought about making it 2 colors but ultimately decided I really wanted only one color. So I set about modifying that shawl pattern to make it just a scarf.

That’s when I decided that I really wanted to make the TARDIS very differently than what the shawl had. And the next thing you know I was searching for TARDIS pictures online and starting to piece together my own version. Because I hate color work and weaving in ends, I decided to use beads for the white touches. For a while I couldn’t get it exactly the way I wanted it – I think I unraveled that first TARDIS about 16 times. But eventually I realized this was intended to be my representation of the TARDIS, not an exact picture and that took a lot of the pressure off.

I’m really happy with the end result and looking forward to wearing it. The yarn is a wool/silk blend so it is super soft. It will be a pleasure to have this around my neck.

To purchase the pattern for yourself, go here.

How to Make the Perfect Sock Knitting Kit

A stitch counter & a variety of markers. Note how some of the markers open and some do not.

A stitch counter & a variety of markers. Note how some of the markers open and some do not.

As I mentioned in my last post, I really enjoy knitting socks. As I know you will, too, I thought I’d share with you the contents of my sock knitting kit. This is something that has evolved over the last year of knitting socks and now it has everything I need to knit socks most of the time.

First off, start with a bag which is made of cloth. I know, you’d think you want a knit or crocheted bag but the needles for socks are so small they will constantly stick out of anything that has holes. So I have a cloth drawstring bag (I got mine from Knit Picks) to hold all my sock materials. It’s big enough to hold 2 balls of sock yarn and 2 pairs of socks, but that’s only about 6″ x 10″ or so.

Obviously your kit then stats with the yarn, pattern and needles for your socks. After you have that, add:

  1. A tape measure
  2. A few colors of sock weight yarn in small amounts. This comes in handy whenever your pattern calls for scrap yarn (like for an afterthought heel).
  3. A small crochet hook. You can use this to help you pick up tiny dropped stitches. I like a C size, personally.
  4. At least one stitch marker. Almost every pair of socks wants you to mark the beginning of the row with a stitch marker. If you have a few (5 or so) you’ll be prepared for most patterns.
  5. A pencil to mark your pattern as needed.
  6. A pair of scissors which won’t stab you. You can do a pair of folding scissors, a pair with a sheath or a pair with rounded tips. Mine are on a cord so I can wear them around my neck.
  7. A row counter of some kind. I have a small one attached to the cord for my folding scissors. You can also use your phone to count stiches, in which case you can skip this.
  8. If you are knitting on DPNs, you may want a holder so that your stitches don’t come off the needles.

That’s it! If you build a kit with all those things, you’ll be prepared for almost any sock making contingency.

Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments what you keep in your sock making kit.

Toe-up socks with self-striping yarn

6 Reasons You Should Try Knitting Socks

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Toe-Up Socks with Self-Striping Yarn

Knitting socks will make you a better knitter!

Ever since I knit my first pair of socks, I’ve almost constantly had a pair of socks on my needles. I resisted sock knitting for a really long time, partly because they look hard but mostly because I figured that was a lot of work for something that would only be on my feet and not seen very much. But now that I’ve knit a few pairs, I love to knit socks!

Reasons Socks are Great to Knit

  1. Knitting socks will make you a better knitter! Knitting socks is a great way to learn a variety of intermediate & advanced knitting techniques fairly easily. Sure you could knit a sweater, but that’s a big investment in time AND yarn if  it doesn’t turn out well. With socks, you can learn to do short rows, increases, decreases, cables, ribbing, lace knitting… pretty much any technique. And its a lot less investment than a sweater.
  2. They are very portable. I can stick a pair of socks in my purse and take them with me anywhere. Most people I knit with have a small project as their “purse knitting” and socks make a great choice.
  3. They don’t take very long. I can usually finish a pair of socks in a few weeks if I work on them as my main project.
  4. Hand made socks are soooo comfortable.
  5. You can make them exactly like you want them – plain, fancy, lacy, striped, fuzzy, multicolored… whatever makes your perfect sock you can knit for yourself.
  6. They aren’t as hard as they look. And there are TONS of resources online to help you get started.

Please share your sock knitting experiences in the comments. Do you have a favorite yarn? Favorite sock designer? I’d love to hear about it.

10 Extremely Useful Knitting Resources

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Below are 10 of the most useful knitting resources I’ve found lately. I thought you all might get some benefit from there:

  1. How to Weave in Ends
  2. How to Hide Your Ends AS YOU KNIT
  3. Video: How to Block a Sweater
  4. Counting rows when knitting cables
  5. Video: How to Knit 2 Socks at a Time On Circular Needles
  6. Double knitting tutorial
  7. How to Mend Holes in Woolens
  8. How to Darn Socks
  9. How to Bind Off When Your Out of Yarn
  10. How to Add an Afterthought Thumb to Mitts

What are your favorite resources online?

The completed socks - check out how nicely the striping worked out!

Toe-Up Socks with a Drop-In Heel

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Project Log: Supporter’s Socks

The completed socks – check out how nicely the striping worked out!

I’ve been continuing to knit socks since I completed my first pair and I get better at it all the time. I find socks are a great project for summer because they don’t heat you up. And they are wonderfully portable. Plus, everyone loves socks! You can even make them for the hard-to-knit-for people in your life!

So with that in mind, I decided to make a pair for my brother. He is all about brightly colored socks, so I got to work with some great, colorful yarn. The last thing I made for him was a crocheted sweater. It was at least 20 years ago, and the sleeves are 2 different lengths. He’s a sport, though – he still has it! Even though he never really wears sweaters. But because of that project, I decided that the most important thing about THESE socks is that they had to be the same length!

I made these socks from the toe-up. I’ve worked both kinds of socks, now and I like the toe-up for several reasons:

  1. You can try them on as you go.
  2. You can use up all your yarn if you wish (that’s hard to do with cuff-down socks).
  3. All the hard parts are closer to the beginning. By the time you get to the cuff, you can just cruise.

Pattern: Supporter’s Sock by Linda Parkhurst (free pattern on Ravelry.com). I really just used this pattern for the cuff/ribbing. It’s great for striped yarn and makes a really stretchy sock. Basically, whenever the color started to change in my yarn, I knit one row. Then, on the next row, I reversed the ribbing. So, if I started with k2, p2 then, after the knit row, I would do p2, k2. At the end of the cuff, I did an inch or so of 1×1 ribbing, and then I cast off with the tubular cast off (its the Kitchener stitch). I LOVED the result! Stretchy and very attractive!

Heel Pattern: Drop-in or afterthought heel. Instructions are here.

Toe Pattern: Judy’s Magic Cast On for Toe-Up Socks (video). Its super easy to do and looks fantastic!

Yarn: Knit Picks Felici Fingering Self Striping Sock Yarn in the Fizz colorway. I think it looks like Starburst candy. And it’s super soft and wonderful to work with.

Needle: Size 0 circular

Lessons Learned:

  • The afterthought heel is a great way to go whenever you are doing striped socks because it keeps the stripes looking great. Without this heel, you usually have a place at the front of the sock where the stripes are not right because of all the yarn you used for the heel. The instructions for this are here.
  • I love using circular needles to make socks (the magic loop method). It is so much easier than DPNs!
  • When you are doing an afterthought heel, be sure to make the cuff about 2 inches longer than you think it should be. Something about this method shortens your cuff. I thought they were the perfect length, but I finished them and and I wished the socks were a bit longer.
Shows a sock with waste yarn in purple (right below the ribbing)

How to Do An Afterthought (or Drop-In) Heel

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An afterthought heel is exactly what it sounds like – one that is done after the rest of the sock is completed. The entire sock is created from top to cuff (or vice versa) and a placeholder is put in for the heel. Then, after the rest of the sock is completed, the heel is inserted. Normally, in this case, the heel messes up the stripes on the front of the sock (see image). But with an afterthought heel, the striping is maintained perfectly and even the heel is striped.

This is an example of a sock done with self-striping yarn but without an afterthought heel. Notice how the dark purple stripes are not regular – the purple is really thin right opposite of the heel.

Here is a sock with an afterthought heel and self-striping yarn. Notice how the stripes in the front are even and uninterrupted?

How to Create an Afterthought Heel

  1. Knit your sock, either from the top-up or the cuff down.
  2. Shows a sock with waste yarn in purple (right below the ribbing)

    When you get to the part of the sock where you would normally put in the heel, knit the 1/2 of the sock with waste yarn. If you are using Magic Loop, you would knit one needle with waste yarn. If you are knitting with 5 DPNs, knit 2 needles with waste yarn. Simply drop your working yarn and start knitting with waste yarn, leaving a tail. Then, when you get to halfway around the sock, pick the working yarn back up again, leaving a bit of slack and cut the waste yarn.

  3. Knit a few more rows with stockinette stitch at the back, then change to your cuff pattern all the way around. Finish your cuff and cast off.
  4. Use your needles to pick up the stitches along the waste yarn.

    Pick up the stitches on both sides of your waste yarn. With Magic Loop, one side of the waste yarn is on one needle and the other on the other needle. You are going to knit these stitches in the round. The stitches (if they are stockinette) will form a “v”. Pick up the ONE of the 2 legs of the stitch. Generally if you have the work facing the same way it will be when you knit it, you want to pick up the right leg.

  5. Using a yarn needle, pick out the waste yarn, leaving the stitches on the needle. You can start from either end.

    Using a needle, pick out the waste yarn.

    Here’s what it looks like when the waste yarn is being removed.

  6. Start knitting the heel in the round. Knit 2 rows.
  7. Start decreasing. Using the decrease method of your choice, decrease 4 times on every other row just as you would a toe in cuff-down socks. Be especially carefulto keep your stitches tight between needles. This part is especially prone to laddering! On magic loop, I did as follows:
    1. Row 1: On each needle, k2tog, knit to last 2 stitches on needle, ssk.
    2. Row 2: knit all.
  8. When about 1/2 the stitches remain on the needles, start decreases 4 times on every row. Do this for 4 rows.
  9. Cast off using the Kitchener stitch (grafting).

And that’s it. You should finish with a heel that looks great, is comfortable, and has nice stripes in it to match the rest of your sock.

Let me know in the comments if you plan to give this a try!

Here is a close up view of the lace wrap.

My First Lace Knit

Project Log: “Romantic Moments Lace Wrap”

My newly finished lace wrap. I also made a hat to match for my Derby Party.

I feel like my knitting skills have advanced an amazing amount since the start of this year. At the end of last year, I made some fingerless gloves for people at a Christmas present and I didn’t even know how to knit in the round or leave a thumb gusset. And now I just finished a beautiful lace shawl – my most challenging project to date.

I started this back on March 9 and finished it May 1, so it didn’t take all that long to complete. But it was VERY challenging – probably the most difficult thing I’ve made so far. And it was very rewarding as well.

Pattern: Romantic Moments Lace Wrap and Garter

Here is a close up view of the lace wrap.

Yarn: Mountain Colors Winter Lace in the Harmony Rose colorway

Lessons Learned:

  • Use lifelines when you knit lace.
  • How to block. I used my new blocking wires and kit from Joann for this project and that’s really why it looks so amazing. Before blocking it was a LOT less impressive. I followed all the directions on the blocking wires kit and it came out beautifully!
  • Stitch markers can be invaluable when your knitting lace. They helped me to stay on track and, more importantly, to realize when I was OFF track. I counted pretty much every stitch of every row on this and that, combined with the stitch markers, helped me to find any mistakes while they were still easy to fix.

Using Lifelines in Lace Knitting

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See the white thread woven through this piece? That's my life line made of dental floss.

Do you know what lifelines are? I didn’t either until a friend at the knitting guild clued me in. I thought they were a brilliant idea and worth a post.

Lifelines are a way to save your game, so to speak. When you are working with a complicated pattern or difficult yarn – especially lace knitting – it can be difficult to recover from errors. Heck, sometimes its hard to even see them. You just know that your count didn’t work out right or it doesn’t look quite right. That’s where lifelines can be a life saver!

How to Make a Lifeline

Using dental floss weave it across your entire work at a point where you know the pattern is correct. You don’t have to use dental floss, but its cheap and easy, fine enough not to get in your way, and it adds minty freshness to your work. Use lifelines multiple points throughout your work – especially if you are working with lace. For the shawl I’m working on, I am doing a lifeline before each pattern repeat. Then, if at any point you need to unravel and get back to a point where you know the work is correct, you can without worrying about any stitches getting lost and without worrying about whether you’ve unraveled to the spot you think you did.

Since I started using lifelines on my very first real lace knit project, I’ve used them 3 times. Wow am I glad I learned about this handy tip! So I thought I’d pass it on.

Do you have any life saving knitting techniques? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Why You COULD Do Something Like That

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All of the work is totally worth it when you're cuddled up under an afghan you made yourself.

As an avid crocheter and knitter, I wear a lot of hand made items. And when I do, I hear people say to be all the time “I could never do something like that.” Although I suppose this is intended to be flattering, it drives me crazy! I’m nothing special. I wasn’t born with some special crocheting gene. I just tried it. At first it was horrible – the first sweater I ever made for was for my brother. It was over 20 years ago and the sleeves are actually two very different lengths. And yet, he still has it because I made it for him.

The second sweater I tried to make didn’t even get finished. I made the whole body, then the first sleeve, then the second sleeve. But when I finished the second sleeve I discovered it didn’t match the first one. The problem was I didn’t know which one was right. And I didn’t have enough yarn to make a third sleeve. It took so long to make that I couldn’t stand the thought of unraveling it. So that sweater got put in a bag where it still sits to this day, unfinished.

The first afghan I ever made was so small it was useless as a blanket except for a child (which wasn’t the intended purpose). I didn’t check my gauge – yes I know almost every pattern says to check your gauge but I didn’t think I needed that step for some reason. That blanket is currently used by one of my dogs when she’s in her crate.

The second? Also way too small – although bigger. And the pattern was really hard because it was full of popcorn stitches. Ugh I hate popcorn stitches.

The third took me 2 years to complete. But I finished it and it is beautiful and I use it to this day. Sure I look at it now and know that I shouldn’t have used a variegated yarn on that complicated cable stitch pattern, but I’m amazed how well its held up.

My point:

You may not love the first thing you crochet or knit. You may not even love the second one. Did you write a fantastic paper in school the first time you tried in kindergarten? Did you ride a bike on your first attempt? Was the first meal you cooked a gourmet one? Just like any other skill, it takes time and practice and patience. So the question is – is it worth all that? And I say “Hell yes!” I have been glad I knew how to crochet and knit for so many reasons. You CAN do it. And now days its easier than ever with all the blogs and videos on YouTube to help you out. I had to learn from pictures in a book for pity’s sake!

If I can help on your journey I’m happy to. Just post in the comments with your questions, concerns or doubts and I’ll help you get going in the right direction.

Happy crafting!