Monday, November 22, 2010

Blonde Knitting Math

Also titled "How to Get More Socks Without More Knitting"

Yup. Notice that some of your socks are wearing thin, but don't have actual holes. Think to yourself, this would be an excellent opportunity to try mending them using duplicate stitch, to see how it lasts. Throw the socks in the "almost forgotten but will eventually be finished" drawer because you don't have time to go down to the stash to find the leftover sock yarn bag.

Wait for time to pass. How much time depends on how many kids you have, if you work full time or not, if you have a puppy, how cold your house is...

One day, open the drawer and root around for a needle gauge. Find the above-mentioned socks. Say, "Wow, these just need to be darned and they'll be like new!". Forget about the needle gauge, go get the leftover sock yarn bag and your coffee. In 20 minutes, darn the socks and put them back into rotation. Presto! You've freshened up your sock drawer without having to make a whole 'nother pair of socks!

You can thank me in sock yarn :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


One day, while reading 'my' blogs, I came across an adorable pair of baby booties. A quick scan of Ravelry projects confirmed their cuteness, and suddenly I had to make booties. I'm very particular when it comes to bootie knitting. No seams, no buttons, prefer no long i-cords. I like the patterns to state what size it's going to make. I'm not even keen on picking up stitches around a bottom 'sole' like the ever popular "stay on" booties (you know the ones, knit a rectangle, pick up sts around the sides, knit in bands of reverse stockinette stitch....). I had never seen a baby bootie pattern using sock yarn that I liked either....usually sock yarn is just too flimsy and should be just for baby socks. But this pattern has been great!

The original written pattern is not great, however. The English translation does not seem to have been done by a knitter. Even I struggled a bit with the instructions. This is when Ravelry is great, because other people had posted what they had done too. I thought it might be nice to post an easy to understand English translation of the pattern, changed slightly to make it an easier knit.The first pair I knit are not here but were done with 18gr of leftover Kroy, in the red/orange/blue/green print. Easy peasy; to maximize the yarn (it's knit from the sole up), I knit the first one, but did not cut the yarn after casting off. Then I started the second one, knit till I ran out, then undid a couple rows of the first one, and evened them out. I gave them to our neighbour's 2 week old baby on Hallowe'en, along with a pumpkin hat for next year and a knit toy ball.
The next pair I did was the ones on the bottom left. It's brown Kroy 3 ply on the soles and Trekking XXL for the top. I had only a small amount of it left, and I tried to maximize it by doing the arch panel in the brown, but that was a bit of a bust. Being knit in the round, it makes intarsia difficult (not impossible though), but I was also doing two at a time magic loop...The top two pairs are done in Bernat Baby Soft...the last of the giant ball of yarn. I made a machine knit baby outfit (not sewn up yet) and needed booties for it (I'm also working on hats for it). I used 3.5mm needles, and made the pair on the right. I added a crocheted cord as they seemed a little loose around the top. They tie at the back because that's just how the holes worked out. I wanted a smaller pair, so instead of using smaller needles, I cast on 4sts less and knit 2 rows less in each section. The pair on the bottom right have been my 'purse knitting' and are done in an unlabelled sock yarn that I got at the Spinrite outlet so it's Kroy. They're a grey, white, blue marl. Very sophisticated.
So, here's my version of the Blue Steps baby booties:
18grm sock yarn, 2.75-3mm needles (base this on your yarn and whatever needles are empty),
2 markers make life easier.
Cast on 40st using Judy's Magic Cast On. If you haven't tried it, please do. It's a fabulous cast on. You'll have 20st on each needle. If you're using dpns, you might want to use a set of 5--these instructions will be for magic loop though.
Purl the first round. Mark the bumpy side as the 'right' side. It's easy to get a little confused in the first few rows, esp. if doing magic loop.
Knit 1 st, inc 1, knit to end of needle (or, the first 19st), inc before the last st, knit last st. Repeat with other needle. You will have increased 1 st at each end of each needle, 4st over the round.
Repeat these two rows, until you have 28sts on each needle; 56st total. Purl one row (optional--I just can't recall right now if I did or not).
Pattern Stitch:
Round 1: For the first stitch of the round, bring yarn forward. *sl1, YO, p1. Repeat from * (You need to bring the yarn forward at the start of the round, but from then on, after you do the YO, the yarn will be at the front for the purl st, and you slip that sl1 as if to purl. So, from the start of the round: yarn forward between needles, slip one as if to purl, yarn OVER the needle and bring it forward to purl 1. Slip 1 purlwise, yarn over and back to front, purl one....)
Round 2: Knit the stitch with the yarn over strand, purl 1. Repeat. These is often written as brk1, p1, as to mean "Brioche Knit 1".
Repeat these two rounds 7 times, for a total of 14 rounds. I find it easiest to count them from the inside.
Arch Decrease section:
Work the first 14st in pattern (row 1), place marker. *Sl1, k2tog, PSSO, p1. Repeat from * until there are 14 sts left, place marker and work last 14st in pattern (starts with a p1).
Round 1: Knit in pattern to first marker. Purl to second marker. Knit in pattern till end.
Round 2: Knit in pattern to first marker. K1, SSK, knit to 3 sts from next marker, k2tog, k1. Knit in pattern to end.
Repeat these two rounds until there are 16 sts on each needle (14 in the pattern, and 2 left from the decreasing section).
The next round will be a round 2 of the pattern st, so purl the 4 sts (2 on each needle) between the markers, removing the markers as you go.
Continue in the pattern stitch for 14 more rounds. Switch to knitting every round for 6-8 rounds (depending on how much yarn you have left and how much of a cuff you want), then cast off loosely. Weave in two ends!
I hope y'all make some little booties! It's an easy pattern to memorize once you make a pair and know the pattern. Again, I did not create the pattern; I'm just offering an English, slightly altered, version. Let me know if it works out, cause sometimes it's easy to over look little things when you're too familiar with it :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Warm Hearts Deserve Warm Hands

I've written before about my Auntie Pat. She died rather suddenly this summer. One thing I always associate with her (and her siblings too!) is lifelong learning and passion for hobbies. She was never afraid to try something new, to learn something new. If it worked, awesome. If it didn't, there was still something to be learned.

The first pair of thrummed mitts I made (the second link above) were for her 60th birthday. While knitting the mitts was not an issue for me, going to the farm store to get the kit was! OMG, it was only 3.5km, but it was the longest, iceyist drive on a country road that I've done. Totally outside my comfort zone. But for Auntie Pat, everything was INSIDE her comfort zone!

While cleaning out her laundry room, my cousin found a shoebox of dye materials of her mom's. Now, I remember gathering moss, flowers, walnuts, etc with my aunt and cousin, but the contents of this box were commercially sold natural dyes. Well, I do suppose a box of goldenrod would not have lasted long, nor survived the three moves since she had stopped dyeing yarn. LOL. I was the blessed recipient of the shoebox. I felt honoured to have her materials and knew I had to step outside my comfort zone and learn about dyeing and make something to honour her.

I came up with the idea of a pair of thrummed mittens again, which really were her signature pattern (along with thrummed slippers). This time though, I would dye the fleece myself! And then, I thought a bit more about how this could honour my aunt. What if I could do a raffle and raise money for her favourite charities in her memory?

I started searching around for a source of fleece. I needed only about 2oz, and thought I had found a seller on from the Ottawa area (where my mom and her siblings spent the summers). But she fell through. I asked on Freecycle and was told there was some at a thrift store in Oshawa. Not too close, but Meg and I went. There was nothing (except Meg's figure skating dress!). Turns out the lady thought I wanted doll's hair. Finally, I asked in a group on made up of people from this region. One kind-hearted lady responded and blew me away with her generosity!

This big ball of white fluffy roving is from Heidi, owner of "The Sheep and Spindle" a home based business of fleece and spinning stuff. It's 4oz of Corriedale, total softness, that Meg hugged all the way home. As soon as I opened Heidi's profile on Ravelry, I knew she would be the one....her profile picture is of her late dog and although she was part Border Collie and part unknown, I think the unknown part might just be some Golden Retriever!

The other items in the picture....POISON!!! OMG. There's a jar of cochineal! If you don't know what cochineal is, take a moment to check the link :) The other package I don't remember off hand...silver something I think. And at the bottom is madder and something else. There's also alum and a few other things. I think there's going to be a lot of red roving in my future ("Red Rover, Red Rover, we call Tracy over"....).

So, here's the deal. My aunt's favourite charity was Lion's Foundation of Canada, Canine Vision Guide Dogs. I also associate Golden Rescue with her, and if you're in the Bancroft area, Auntie Pat was a founding member of the Bancroft and Area Recreational Canine Club and I'm sure they'd appreciate donations too. If you donate ANY amount to these three groups in memory of Auntie Pat (that's her website), let me know by leaving a comment here or an email to me at tracykm at yahoo dot com. Please, if you leave a comment here, include your email address if you don't have a Blogger account. Please also include which charity, and an approximate range (ie...up to $25, $25-$50, $50-$75, more than $75). It doesn't matter if you did your donation at the memorial service, online in the summer, or right now. I'll put everyone's names in a hat, and draw a winner for a pair of brown thrummed mittens (if brown's not your thing, we can work something out). I would like to do the draw on her birthday, December 7.

Now, go hug your favourite dog, sheep, or aunt :)

Thursday, November 04, 2010


I have some tough decisions to make, knitting related. Oh yeah, some big doozies. I have some 'special' yarn and have to decide if I should machine knit it, or hand knit it. I've been experimenting lately with doing "tuck rib" on my Singer 327. I used a very fine yarn (label reads Spinrite, 2/24, Mic Acr Wl, Khaki/black, Wrk 06707 July 99...I bought this at a Spinrite tent sale (the makers of Patons and Bernat) and I'm interpreting it as microfiber acrylic and wool. Not so sure about the "Khaki" as it seems grey to me. The 2/24 is the size of the yarn) and a punchcard, T10, and set the ribber and MB up for full needle rib. The mainbed does the tucking stitches (every other stitch for 2 rows, then the alternate stitches), and the ribber bed just does its thing.
While still hanging on the machine, the knitting is very squishy and condensed, but once off the machine, and given a little steam, it opens up beautifully. In the picture below, you can see the 'long' stitches peeking through--these are the stitches that get tucked for two rows before getting knitted (tucking means the yarn is laid across the needle, but it's not knitted, and once it is knitted, the yarn float is knit with the stitch).This picture, below, shows the "ribber bed" side before I stretched it out. It doesn't look like ribbing because the stitches on the other side don't get knit on each row. Even stretched out, like above, the fabric maintains a "double sided" feel that you just don't get with hand knitting. Both sides look great, it's plush and squishy but still open.However much I loved it, I wasn't thrilled by the gentle drabness of the yarn. Here's a case where a boring yarn and a repetitive stitch design add up to ho hum. I love how grey can both be a casual colour (grey sweats) and a dressy colour (grey wool flannel suit). But this 'shawl' was looking more like grey sweats than a dress suit. It needs a more interesting pattern, and although it's a cone of yarn, I might actually hand knit it!

The other yarns in question are MUCH more special. From left...a skein of rayon, textured yarn, about 400yds, from Grand River Yarns (bought at K-W Knitter Fair, 2007), mohair-wool (80-20), 658yds, from Wellington Fibres (the label, website and email on the label spell it Fibre, which seems really odd to me but the web address works and that's how it's spelled on the website too). I went there at the end of May, 2008. I kept meaning to blog about that trip, the place is REALLY cool. Then, the Yarn Harlot wrote about it, with even more great pictures. Maybe I did blog about it then...I'll have to go back to see, LOL. The yarn on the right is Skacel Merino Lace, "shrink resistant", 1375 yds, bought at K-W Knitter's Fair Sept 2008.I know the rayon is not a big skein, and destined to be a scarf, I guess. Although I wear shawls now, I'm not really a scarf person; they just don't seem necessary with jeans and a t-shirt. So I think I'll knit it on the machine just so I can get it done quickly and out of the stash.

The other two yarns....The mohair does have several colours in it, but it's still pretty tonal (with the exception of the gold). I'm not sure how elaborate of a pattern it will tolerate. It might be perfect for the pattern I tried with the grey yarn. The Skacel's got a lot of different colours in it, pinks, browns, yellow,'s going to need something very simple. Maybe a semi-circular shawl in stockinette but with a very ornate border done by hand. Or maybe not a shawl at all, maybe it wants to be a very fine sweater. Although after working on that red tank top in the summer, I'm not sure if I want to assemble a sweater in fine yarn (I have a white cardigan in pieces, waiting since March or so....).

Part of the problem is that I don't often get to hand knit with awesome yarns, and so I really enjoy getting to do that. But on the other hand, if I use the knitting machine, I can enjoy wearing/using the final product so much sooner.

I'm not sure I'm 'practiced' enough to use the good yarns on the machine, and I do have some Christmas knitting I have to crank out. I'd really like to try using the tuck rib and do short row wedges. Has anyone done this? I have a lot of fine, but boring yarn that I could knit up into shawls, scarves, etc. So, I think I can do some more practicing before going for the good stuff! LOL.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Hi!  A lot of people visit this page to find out how to make a peanut butter jar costume.  If you're one of them, welcome!  If you make your own, please link back to here, and send me a note at tracykm at yahoo dot com.  I'd love to see what you make.  Also, this year (2013), I am making a strawberry jam costume to go with the peanut butter one!

Halloween has never been the most happiest holidays at our house. I think first went trick or treating when he was 3 1/4. I know when he was 2 1/4 I was a week away from delivering Lucy, and I'm pretty sure we didn't take him out dressed up, but went out a little later to show him the decorations and pumpkins. I don't believe in taking kids out until they can understand it a little, and walk further than one block. With Huey, that took a little longer than other kids :) Between his perfectionism, his low tolerance for frustration, and the Canadian climate, we rarely got through a Hallow e'en without tears. Until this year.

Lucy had a few ideas running through her head. She finally decided on Tinkerbell. I did not want to purchase an over-priced skimpy piece of poorly made costume that Disney thinks is acceptable. We surfed the web and decided to create our own pattern. I carefully measured and drew a fabric layout, and we bought 1m of "Halloween Satin" from FabricLand, for $3.99. We got some light green organza, and found an end cut of ivory organza that was probably a drapery fabric. It's hard to see, but there are 7 green petals, then 7 green organza petals staggered (it was supposed to be just 6 petals, but ahem. The design engineer wandered off before everything was laid out). Under that is the cream organza, cut shorter, just for extra "petal slippage protection". LOL.Lucy did not what shoulder straps of any sort. But how to make the dress stay up, and keep her warm? She found some "velcro" adhesive dots in my sewing stuff. We used them at the points, stuck to a pale pink shirt we found at the Salvation Army (for $1...brand new, high tech kid's athletic shirt!). That didn't work too well, so I got some double sided clothing tape. She's got several shirts on the above picture, actually.
I started with hemming the petals, as this fabric frays terribly. It looked awful. We decided to zig zag the petal (and top) edges to create a frayed, petal texture. So much quicker too!
I bought two pairs of white nylons at the dollar store to make the wings, but then found wings at Value Village for $3.99, so the nylons went on her legs. She wore pink leggings, and over that the two pairs of nylons and that's how she got the perfect pale pink legs. I also knit her a shawl on the knitting machine (as a way to try out a new technique!). For her bootees, I got a suede skirt from a thrift shop ($6; was a little more than I wanted to spend, given how short it was), and found a pattern for fleece bootees but used the suede for the bottoms. She wore them over her shoes. I made the pompoms :)

Meg is easily persuaded to dress up in anything. Last year she was Spiderman, just because we had the costume. She had a lot of ideas this year, but then we were looking at costumes and found this figure skater dress on the rack...for $1. How could I say no? We even found purple skate guards to match, she had purple 'bike' shorts underneath, and I made her purple legwarmers. Some purple earmuffs would have been a good idea. Ooops. LOL.And Hugh. What would he come up with this year? He gets big ideas that are just so difficult to execute or wear. He said he wanted to be a jar of peanut butter. WTF? LOL. How on earth do you make a peanut butter jar costume?!

I started out looking at hoola hoops. WAY too large. Thought about using piping of some sort. Then, while I was looking at yarn at the Sal. Army, Meg found these really large (18") embroidery hoops (2 hoops is a set). For $1. Hugh and I went to FabricLand together to search for peanut butter material. He really wanted something shiny, like the jar, but the fleece was on sale ($6.99 for a meter of solid), and it's warm and easy to work with. One meter was sufficient. For the label, I remembered my old projector...put a picture under it and it enlarges it onto the wall. We just happened to actually have a jar of Kraft pb, although it was creamy, not crunchy. So I just moved it around and used the letters in the French and English words to get most of the letters for crunchy. Then, while colouring, he tells me it should be Chunky. A quick search on the Kraft site showed it is Crunchy! Phew. I traced the bears, Kraft sign, and letters onto white Bristol board, he coloured it out, and Daddy glued them to the green Bristol board. Getting it attached to the fleece was tricky. I used safety pins, but would have preferred about 100 staples.

The hat/lid. We had some ideas, but not until we got working did it come together. We used the left over fleece from Lucy's bootees, and some foam core board, fastened to a tennis hat. After Friday's school party, I got a package of peel and stick vinyl from the dollar store and 'laminated' the label, which gave it some great shine and a bit more oomph. We were worried about rain/snow for Halloween, but it cleared up. Everyone loved Hugh's costume. You know you have a cool costume when even the teen aged boys are excited by it!

Overall, the costumes are not really cheaper to make on our own; it's the little things that add up, like wings, stick on crystals for the face, etc. But the satisfaction of being able to say "We made it ourselves" is priceless. This was probably the BEST Halloween we've had! You can't put a price on that either!