Saturday, September 29, 2012

“Choose Your Own Adventure” Beanie Knit Pattern

my beanie pattern hat

You enter a room. In the corner are a pile of knitting needles, several different skeins of yarn, and a ruler. Curious.

Suddenly, a blast of cold air sails across your poor ears, freezing them to little dangly icicles. The window is nailed open, and a blizzard outside will soon engulf the little room. You turn to leave, but the door won’t open!


You race across the room to the pile of knitting supplies. How will you keep warm with the snow swirling around you?

Click on the link for salvation.

My Beanie Pattern

You find a pattern for a beanie hidden in a link. You quickly knit a little square with the closest knitting needles and yarn. You measure the square and discover your gauge. Eureka! Time to warm those frosty ears.

You knit as fast as your fingers can fly. As your pinky begins to turn blue, you complete the last stitch. You will not be cold this day.

The End

Brrr. Save my ears!

sc beanie flatThis week, I used a formula hidden in a knitting book from the 1960’s plus a skein of $1 yarn and wrote up a pattern that actually works. I sewed it up, and you can’t see the seam. Knitting immersion seems to have imparted some yarny wisdom. It’s about time.

Let me know if my pattern write up works (or doesn’t). Go have an adventure!



Thursday, September 27, 2012


Back in Week 36, I pulled out my old copy of 365 Knitting Stitches a Year and played with the patterns.

I discovered the publisher had corrections available for older versions of the calendar.  Look what they sent me instead of a list of corrections!

sc 365 knitting stitches

Thanks, Martingale & Company. It’s great to a see a company stand behind their product.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 38: The Math of Knitting

My messy basement

My workroom became the house “junk drawer” over the summer. It’s dark, messy, and impossible to work in. I’m in the middle of a clear out, but until I make more progress, I’m working on portable projects.

Knitting is portable, so that’s what I’m sticking with. I start my intermediate knitting class next week, and I need to teach the students how to knit a hat. This week, I’m going to learn how to design a pattern for a knit hat using my mother’s copy of The Complete Book of Progressive Knitting.

The Complete Book of Progressive Knitting

This classic uses formulas to describe how a pattern is put together. Once you figure out your knit gauge, you plug your numbers into the formulas to produce your own custom pattern. You don’t need to match someone else’s gauge.

Formula for knitting a sleeve

The concept is a little daunting, but I actually like to do real–world math. My first try will be a hat. If the hat formula works, I’ll pass it on to the students. I may even attempt a sweater.

Meanwhile, I have my three organizing bins (keep, donate, toss) already filled in my workroom. I’m in the process of moving furniture. My big issue is lighting. Basements in West Texas do not have windows. Anyone have suggestions for great task lighting?



Monday, September 24, 2012

Evolution of a Sweater

Stitch by stitch; mistake by mistake.

I knitted all week long. I picked out stitches, I ripped back rows, and I learned a ton on what is a fairly basic raglan baby sweater.

I enthusiastically cast on, finished about 2 in., and realized I did not like what I was producing. I also had forgotten a buttonhole.

First cast on

Rip it!

Never knit what you hate.

I ripped it out and started over with smaller knitting needles. I could forsee the original becoming a toddler sweater because I knit loosely. I dropped my needle size from size 8 to size 5 and tried again.



Second try cast on

About 2 in. in to the new sweater, I discovered I had added an extra stitch along the button band. No ripping now! Using the no–nonsense, fix–it solutions in Knitting in Plain English, I simply dropped and unraveled the extra stitch column and then eased the extra yarn the stitch produced back into the rows by tightening stitches across. It’s easier to do than explain.


Sweater try on

New skills learned: using markers, putting stitches on hold for use later, making buttonholes, sewing up, hiding the yarn tails, binding off in pattern, picking up stitches the right way.

Not learned: working on two sleeves at the same time. Really, next time I will use a third needle. I had such a knot going with trying to follow the instructions exactly. No one will know that I used a third needle. Sorry, but those instructions were NOT in plain English.

Working on both sleeves tangle

And so, late Sunday evening, I finally completed the little one–week baby sweater. The sleeves may be too short because I missed an increase; the body may be too long because I was determined to keep the buttonholes even. I don’t care.

The finished sweater

Fully fashioned and raglan!
Possibly wearable (I need to find a nearby baby to be sure)!

My fully fashioned sweater

Producing it was like giving birth: Painful during, but I could do it again.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 37: In Which I Make My First Sweater

The big countdown to my knitting class has begun. In two weeks, I must teach beginning knitters the skills to make a sweater. And, um, I've never actually finished one. I've knit the parts for one, but sewing it together never occurred to me.

I'm trusting Knitting in Plain English to fill in my knitting knowledge gap. I learned how to crochet from Crocheting in Plain English, so I expect Maggie won't lead me wrong here. She was a knitting teacher and knows how to translate knitter–ese.

So, wow, a full sweater in a week?! Ambitious. Except I plan to make a baby sweater. My first sweater (still in pieces) also was a baby sweater for my now 5–year–old nephew. The fact I plan to make this one wearable is quite impressive.

If you have any questions about knitting, ask away in the comments. I need you guys to quiz me so I can act like I know what I'm doing in my class.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 36: Knit Stitch Experimenting

Did you know that knitting consists of only one stitch? From the front, it's called Knit, and from the back, it's called Purl. And depending on how and where you place the stitches, you'll get hundreds of different looking knit fabrics.

I'm a sucker for stitch patterns. They're like puzzles. You can't "see" the pattern hidden in the string of K's and P's until you actually knit a sample. 365 Knitting Stitches a Year is a perpetual calender, which is an odd choice for this week's craft book; however, each day offers a full–color picture of a new pattern with the instructions on how to reproduce it. A new puzzle everyday!

I've been into dishcloths lately, so I thought I'd pick a pattern that looks like it could be challenging and scrubby. I chose January 12, Waterfall, which seems oddly appropriate for a dishcloth.

To turn the pattern into a dishcloth, I knit a K1,P1 seed stitch border at the top and bottom, and a narrow seed stitch border on each side. The pattern threw me off at first because you add extra stitches for a few rows and then they disappear. Again, I only used the front (Knit) and back (Purl) sides of one stitch to produce the lacy pattern. 

I would rate this stitch pattern as an intermediate project. I think Waterfall might drive me nuts if I was attempting a sweater. It makes a great dishcloth.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Look! Ninjas! T–Shirt

I was intrigued with the recipe in Customize Your Clothes that makes inket ink stick to fabric. I like to put odd things in my printer (tissue paper and starched fabric), so why not more fabric?

This inkjet ink setting recipe is all over the Internet, but I'd always thought the ingredients looked difficult to obtain. Turns out I had everything BUT the fabric softener. I substituted hair conditioner, so we'll see.

2 tbs Alum
2½ tsp Washing Soda
¾ tsp fabric softener
1 c hot water

Soak the fabric for 10 minutes, and then let it dry. You're supposed to use the fabric within several hours of soaking it because alum can be damaging to fabric, but I let it dry overnight. You then iron the fabric onto freezer paper and then run it through the printer on the best setting. Lightly rinse afterward (some ink does come off), let it dry, and use it.

So what did I choose to print?

I made this graphic several years ago for my daughter. She had gone overseas to compete in a tournament and was completely worn out by jet lag the first night. She had a dream about ninjas. We knew she was dreaming about ninjas because she talked in her sleep and said, "Look, ninjas! Ninjas!" like ninjas were the most wonderful site she had ever seen. She loved the story, so we made a t–shirt to commemorate the dream.

We used an iron–on print to make the original t–shirt. Inkjet iron–ons don't have the longest life span in this house. The t–shirt got worn to death, literally. We tried to save it with fabric markers, but even that solution did not last.

So I printed out the Look! Ninjas! lady on the inkjet–set treated smooth cotton fabric. My first two prints turned out great. The printer did not complain until it ate the third and fourth prints. I did not kill the printer. I tested it, and it still works. I may try adhering the fabric to paper using repositionable glue spray next time.

I just trimmed the fabric and ironed it on to a new shirt using some Heat'n'Bond iron–on adhesive. I'm going to run a decorative stitch around the applique to help keep it adhered to the shirt. I told my daughter to wash the shirt as gently as possible. The black lines printed the most solidly. The color is broken in a few areas after rinsing.

We may print another Ninja! lady and stitch it to a messenger bag for her if the shirt dies in the wash. I'll let you know how it survives. People make quilts using this stuff, so it has to be somewhat washable.

While digging for the Ninja! lady in my graphics stash, I came across vintage word art. I printed it on the treated fabric and am going to paint it for a pillow. I need to do some experimenting with paint first.

My daughter is thrilled to have her Ninja! lady back in her t–shirt rotation.

Have you used the commercial or homemade inkjet setting solution? How did your print hold up?


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 35: Customizing Clothes

I have an amazing collection of plain t-shirts. I think they make me look more sophisticated even when I'm dressing down (which is most of the time). I'm starting to think that decorated does not have to mean cutesy. So, I'm going to give it a try. And I may get all the way to whimsy, but cutesy is still banned.

Customize your Clothes is full of ideas to paint, splatter, bleach, stitch, and print your way to clothing that no one else has.

Nothing in the drawer is safe! First up, homemade inkjet printed fabric.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Great Gauge Experiment

Gauge. It's the dirty word of knitting. Every single knitting book and pattern intones how essential proper gauge is, yet none can tell you how to get proper gauge. Ask a knitter, and she'll probably show you the sweater that worked and the one that is three sizes too small.

What is gauge? It's simply the number of stitches per inch achieved with certain needles and certain yarn. And no two knitters produce exactly the same results. My gauge using size 7 needles and cotton yarn definitely does not match the pattern designer's gauge using the same needles and yarn.

It's a dishcloth. Who cares about size? I don't. It's time, however, to solve this mystery of gauge and why it is so important because I need to teach it to a class of eager beginning knitters in a few short weeks.

Book after book gives what they call "The Way" to calculate gauge. "Ignore all other methods, this one will work!" they all proclaim and then explain in about a paragraph's length how to measure or count your way to accuracy.

So, let's give this a try.

Method 1: Pin and count

Cast on about 30 stitches, knit several inches, put pins in the knitting to mark a 4–in. segment, and count the stitches in between.

How'd it work for me? Apparently I can't count. I find it difficult to count the V's between pins. It also takes a long time to pinpoint the right size needle. I started with a size 7 and made it to a size 5 before I got tired of the process. I never did find the needles to produce the pattern gauge.

Method 2: Knit and Measure

Cast on the number of stitches your pattern indicates will produce 4 in. in width. If your pattern says 4 in. = 20 stitches, cast on 20 st. Knit a few inches and measure from edge to edge. Keep changing needle sizes until you reach gauge.

How'd it work for me? I knew I was still too big on my needle sizes from the first gauge exercise, so I started with a size 4 and ended with a size 3. Yes! The dishcloth pattern suggested size 7, and I found the correct gauge at size 3. My second cloth was exactly the size the pattern said it should be.

So I got my gauge to work using Method 2, but I'm like Veruca Salt. I want it now! There has to be a quicker way to get to the correct needle size so I can get to the real knitting.

I found an interesting method in The Principles of Knitting, which explains everything you didn't know that you wanted to know about knitting.

Method 3: Test Swatches

Cast on enough stitches to produce 2 inches in width. Knit about 2 in. Cast off and measure. Wash the test swatch and dry it. Measure the width again. When you get the correct gauge, knit a full gauge swatch and adjust from there.

How'd it work for me? The size 3 was obviously too small. I was looking for 1 in. = 8 st with this acrylic yarn. I actually was able to match the recommended needle size on the label of yarn with my size 8 needle.


The test swatch lets you quickly audition needles with your yarn, and the knit and measure method offers a straight forward visual guide to measuring gauge.

This is the method I'm going to stick with until someone sets me straight with the next latest and greatest method.

How do you make sure your knit sweaters fit?