Monday, October 9, 2017

New Video: Mitered Neckband

I have a new book out, "Mid-Gauge Mastery," which has thirteen patterns for sport and DK weight yarn for your LK-150 or other mid-gauge machine.  It comes with two DVDs that have 5 hours of video instruction.  The book is available over at www.dianaknits.com.

One of the things many knitters find difficult and tedious is making a good-looking V neckband.  Here's one from my new book, "Mid-Gauge Mastery," that is hemmed - no ribber - and looks just wonderful.  This, I believe, is a good, clear explanation of how to do this.  I achieve a crisp center V by decreasing onto the center stitch every other row three times, putting in a looser turning row, and increasing on each side of that center stitch every two rows three times.

One secret to this - don't move all the neckband stitches in and out for the decreases or increases.  Do the work at the center front first, then move it over and move the stitches on just one side of the neck.  With this baby sweater, you can do this with just a triple transfer tool, but if you want to speed up the job, use a 7-stitch tool or a garter bar. 


Sunday, September 17, 2017

September's Video: Scrubbie

This might be the easiest, fastest project I've ever put up as a video:  A quick little kitchen scrubbie to knit.  This is using Red Heart Scrubby Sparkle yarn.

Note:  Don't use the regular Scrubby yarn.  Scrubby Sparkle runs smoothly through LK150, Studio 860, and Brother 350 machines as well as bulky knitting machines.  I've even gotten it through a standard gauge machine on every other needle, just keeping a close eye on it.  I haven't tried the regular Scrubby myself, but it looks much too lumpy for our machines. 

This pattern is for the mid-gauge machine, but you can also make it over the same number of stitches and a medium tension on your bulky machine.

This is a little kick-back, no worries project.  Once you're worked this through once, you can probably make one faster than you can watch the video, and when you sew it up, you don't need to worry about perfect seams because the eyelash yarn covers any irregularities.  To These make cute little gifts for Secret Santa or "just because."



I ended the video with a brief overview of the mid-gauge book, which is the book that contains the scrubbie. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

New Book & DVDs Available - Mid-Gauge Mastery

I recently finished my new book & DVD set, Mid-Gauge Mastery:  Fun Projects for Any Mid-Gauge Knitting Machine.   The set consists of a 33-page book and two DVDs.

This one took me quite a long time, because it was a large project.  It actually has 13 different projects, and the edited video lessons (detailed instructions on how to make the items) are over five hours long and took two DVDs.

Rather like The Goldilocks Challenge, this is a progressive project book.  That is, if you're looking for materials to teach a friend to knit, or you're wanting to learn to knit and actually get some nice knits made, this book starts with very easy projects and then moves up to more challenging and more interesting items.  I think that even experienced knitters will find some new ideas here!

The book starts with three afghans - a baby blanket with three panels, with a "worm join" and a "worm edge."  Did you know you can use the worm for a join?  Next, there's a fancier baby blanket with strings of hearts joining and edging the panels.  The third afghan is a great stash-buster, gift or charity project - it uses several thin, industrial cone yarns and a plying technique to quickly make a giant, "man-sized" afghan.  The panels are joined using a beautiful sew-as-you-go cable join, and then the blanket is edged with a cable edging.

I put in a fast kitchen scrubbie made from Red Heart Scrubby yarn.  I like this sparkly, colorful stuff, and I've found that if I give these away, people ask for more of them.  You won't believe how quickly these make up, in just a very few minutes.

The Diagonal Mid-Gauge Scarf is a warm, doubled scarf made with an easy but very interesting bias technique.  With this little project, I teach seaming and grafting.  I made mine with a beautiful self-striping alpaca-blend yarn, which results in bias striping patterns without any extra ends to hide. My friend zipped over to the store and tried out two of the other color ways of that same yarn, and we loved them all.


I have a big triangle shawl with a hand-tooled lace edge.  I start from the skinny points and work to the wide area, then do a graft.  This results in a terrific mitered lace for the bottom corner.  Here's a closeup of that corner.

My baby set consists of a raglan pullover, baby pants, and a hat.  These are great fun to make, and I admit that I lost count of how many raglan pullovers I made before I realized I was through testing and simply holding up publication.  The little pullovers are fast to make, and cover most of the techniques you need for basic sweater making.  I have three neckline options - a lapped neckline, a mitered neckline, and a scalloped collar neckline to go with the girly baby pants.  My girlie baby set uses scalloped hems in pink and was one of my favorite finished items.






The ear flap hat has child-to-adult sizes.  I was hoping this would be an outstanding charity hat because it has the extra warm, doubled, short-rowed ear flaps.  I did the shaped top of the hat two ways - the garter bar method for perfectionists and a quicker, needles out of work shortcut method.

The baby kitty hat is the earflap hat with kitten ears and an embroidered face.  This was another addictive little project; I just kept making and making them.  Cute kid, huh?  It's a baby doll.

There's a mitten, too, in seven sizes, with a shaped palm and a very comfortable thumb easily attached with more sew-as-you-go tricks.  Just for fun, you can make the Felted Oven Mitt by knitting a big size loosely with a feltable wool and felt it down in your washing machine to the fit and thickness you want. 


The most advanced project in the book is a sew-as-you-go sock - yes, a sock on your mid-gauge!  I have had so many requests from readers for a mid-gauge sock, and I had been concerned about getting a successful sock even though the mid-gauge can't make tiny stitches.  This is a nice sock if you're looking for a thicker sock.  Ordinary sock yarn is going to be a bit too thin; you'll need the heavier kind.  




Sunday, September 3, 2017

Surprise! There are openings at the Grand Rapids Area Machine Knitting Seminar!

I just heard from Vicki at Grand Rapids, and they have some open spaces for the seminar this coming weekend.  This is sort notice, but a great opportunity to attend a machine knitting seminar and make a bunch of knitting friends.

I'm teaching Friday and Saturday, Sept. 8th and 9th, and am very excited about teaching at this one.  It's a little smaller group, and I'll be able to cover more and get to know people more.  I worked with the club to choose this schedule of classes:
  • A thorough garter bar class - this is not your ordinary garter bar class.  I teach how to do some unusual, very cool things with it.
  • A lace clinic, which will include my automatic scalloped lace, along with a number of other interesting techniques, like slant lace and mirror lace.
  • A bunch of cheaters and tricks, like setting in a sleeve as you knit it, the "practically perfect gauge swatch," Knit Leader tips, all kinds of interesting edges and joins. 
  • I'm also doing a ribber workshop.  I don't get to do these very often, but with this smaller group, I've got some fun ribber items planned.
  • I've got a 28-page, coil bound handout book which has a big pile of bonus materials this time - Kitty Hat, Heart Pillow, The popular foldover edge tuck baby blanket, Squared Away Entrelac, Scrubbie, and Diagonal Mid-Gauge Scarf.  I'll teach as many of these as time allows, but if I don't get to all the goodies, they're in the book.
Attend just one day for $40, or attend both days for $75.  Here's the club information - do consider calling them and registering to go!

Please contact vnoorthoek@comcast.net and let her know which or both days you plan to attend, and you can pay the club's seminar fee when you arrive.
 
Workshop Location:
First Reformed Church of Byron Center     
8425 Byron Center Avenue; Byron Center, MI 49315
This is a ground level space that provides easy access for everyone.

Including lunch made by Sara!

Here are are the details Vicki will need when you contact her: 
  1. Whether you're attending September 8 ($40), September 9 ($40), of both days ($75).  Friday the 8th will run from 8:30-4, and Saturday the 9th, 8:30-3.
  2. Do you have a special diet?  If so, explain what you need.
If you need a hotel, Vicki suggests the Comfort Suites South, 7644 Caterpillar Court; Grand Rapids, MI 49548, (616) 301-2255 (make reservation by phone).
Are you in the area and not connected with a knitting club?  Consider the Grand Rapids Area Machine Knitters.  They meet the second Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m. at the Kentwood Senior Center, 355 48th Street, Grand Rapids, MI.  Marcia Zysltra is the contact for meetings, and can be emailed at zylstram@att.net


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Quick Update

Hey, friends, my little family are just fine.  We're in North Austin, and we had several rainy days and wind, a few downed trees, but no problems.  We're about 200 miles from the really big trouble.  It was really strange to have blue sky and puffy little clouds here while it continued to pour and pour on eastern Texas.

I didn't actually realize right away that our out of state friends were concerned about us. It was a busy week, at the office with meetings and deadlines, some evening meetings, and next weekend, I'm teaching in Grand Rapids.  I know it's going to be an incredibly fun seminar.  They've already been wonderful as we have been setting up the seminar.

Houston is an enormous, growing city of over 2 million people, not even counting the many surrounding cities that are related economically many of which were devastated by the flooding.  The Houston area produces the lion's share of the economic growth in Texas, is filled with corporate headquarters and universities.  I can hardly fathom what it will take to rebuild, or the number of people affected, but I have great faith that we will see an incredible recovery.

I am not from Texas, but I've lived here since 1994, and you fall in love with the people here.  They are friendly, funny, generous, down-to-earth, hard-working, and loving.  I have a whole storehouse of personal memories of kindnesses Texans have done for our family over these years.  Some of them were small, like shop owners giving my boys a treat and refusing payment, and some were big, like the farmer who towed my son's car for hours from the countryside to a small town where he could get a transmission replaced.  Gosh, a gas station owner once trusted my college boy to pay for a tank of gas so he could get home, even refusing to phone us for a credit card number!  I'm always noticing Texans helping out frazzled parents or elderly folks without giving it a thought.  The friendliness and the politeness of the Texas culture makes every day more pleasant. 

Lots of people have traveled to the coast to help.  God bless everyone who has dropped his or her own life right now to help the afflicted! 

Austin is receiving many flood victims.  When Austin received Katrina victims, local people found many creative ways to help the individuals who came. Now our city has this new challenge, so pray for us, folks; not just for those hurt, but also for those of us who need to see how to help and then do it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Video for August - Dragonfly Stitch

I've hand knitted this, and wanted a machine knit version that was easy to make.  Here it is:

Monday, July 31, 2017

Twelve Step Program for Rehabbing Machines


12-Step Program
For Rehabilitating Old Japanese Knitting Machines

Suppose someone gives you an old knitting machine, or you purchase one at a garage sale or thrift shop.  What should you do?  Here’s a step-by-step list that applies to Japanese machines – Studio, Silver Reed, Juki, Corona, Knitking, and Brother.  Some of this applies to Swiss and German machines, as well, but they are somewhat different. 
I believe you can do these steps without being terribly mechanically inclined – well, because I can do them!  Over the years, I’ve gotten quite a bit of practice fixing up old machines.  My husband, who has great mechanical talents, has encouraged me to help him rehab machines, even very old ones, and the outcome is nearly always a very functional machine, because these babies are built to last!

1.       Determine whether the machine is worth the effort required to repair it.  Generally speaking, if the knitting machine is heavily rusted, if working parts are badly bent, broken or shattered, you might not want to attempt a repair at all.   Don’t throw it away, though – someone will want it for parts.  The good news is that home knitting machines, by and large, were incredibly well built and last a long, long time.

2.       Make sure you have an owner’s manual for that model.  If you don’t, most manuals are available to download at machineknittingetc.com.  Free!  Bless the man who put up and maintains that site!

3.       Next, take a careful inventory and find out if any critical parts are missing.  This is not all that difficult.  Virtually all owner’s manuals I have seen have parts sketches or photos included, and you simply compare the parts to the pictures in the manual and see what might be missing.

4.       If parts are missing, figure out how hard they are to obtain.  If you are missing weights, transfer tools, cast-on combs, upper tension unit, or punch cards, those are relatively easy to get.  If you are missing the carriage, sinker plate, or electronic console, well, it will be a challenge to find and afford those major parts.  You will need to contact dealers, place requests on the machine knitting “for sale” groups, and check eBay.  I have a long history of always finding the parts I need, rather like a Mountie always getting his man, but I keep after it as long as it takes.  You certainly could end up in a situation where you don’t think it’s worth the cost and effort.  Brand new knitting machine replacement parts are quite expensive, and you can expect to pay for shipping.  This might be a good time to do some internet searches and find out what your model is worth.  When was it manufactured?  Does it have the more desirable features that might make it a machine you will want to keep for the long haul?  How much do they fetch on eBay?  How much do dealers charge when they sell them used?   

5.       If you have a complete machine that appears to be in good shape, you are lucky, but you aren’t finished yet.  Virtually every machine that has been stored any length of time needs its sponge bar replaced.  The sponge bar is a metal strip with foam rubber that fits inside the machine on top of the needles.  If your needles are popping up above the bed, you need one.  The sponge bar should hold the needles down against the bed.  The best way to get a sponge bar is to purchase one from a dealer.  You will need to pull the old sponge bar out, measure it, and buy one as close as possible to the one you took out.  In a real pinch, you can put new foam rubber into an old sponge bar, but the new ones do last longer. 

6.       While you’ve got the sponge bar out, remove all the needles.  The manual will have a page or two that explains how to remove and install needles.  They need to be thoroughly cleaned.  We soak our needles in a mixture of denatured alcohol and Hoppes Elite Gun Oil (only buy Elite, which is safe on plastic), and we use the denatured alcohol outdoors only because it gives off fumes.  We make three or four containers with this half and half mixture, using old jars, and put 1/3 of the needles in each container and let them soak a while.

7.       While the needles soak, vacuum the machine to remove fuzz from its innards.  If you have a machine brush, use that on it.  Wipe down the machine thoroughly using a rag with some knitting machine oil (again, I use Hoppes Elite). 

8.       Take the carriage and push every button and pull every lever and make sure they all work.  Turn it over and make sure that when you change a control on the top, something happens on the bottom.  If anything is stuck, penetrating oil will often loosen it up, but you do have to wait for it to work.  I’ll leave a stuck carriage on the kitchen counter, and every time I walk by, I’ll play with the controls until it’s unstuck.  Penetrating oil is available at auto parts stores.

9.       Turn over the sinker plate and make sure wheels and brushes spin completely freely.  If they don’t, use a cross-point screwdriver to remove them, then remove any fuzz or bits of yarn.  When you put them back on, use a drop of oil, and they should spin.

10.   After a while, take the needles out of their soak and reinstall them one by one, wiping them down, looking them over to see that they are straight and the tiny “latches” open and close easily.  Don’t use a bent needle or one that won’t open and close.  If the latches don’t work, the needle won’t knit.  Replacement needles aren’t usually terribly hard to get.  It’s a good idea to move the needles to new places.  The needles in the center of the bed get the most wear, so move those to the ends of the bed.  If you don’t have quite enough needles, “borrow” some from the ends of the bed so the middle ones are all filled in and order some spares.

11.   Test the machine!  If you’re a beginner, work the Beginner Course with it, and after that, go in the manual and check that it will do fair isle, tuck, slip stitch, and lace, whatever patterning it was designed to do. 

12.   Now that your machine is feeling so much better, keep it in the pink with a little routine maintenance!  Whenever you walk by it, poke the buttons and move the levers to keep them working.  Keep it oiled and wiped down, and give it an extra cleaning after a project.  When you vacuum, vacuum the machine, too.  Keep it indoors and out of the sunshine, and cover it when you’re not knitting. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How Difficult is Machine Knitting?

My mission is to help people who want to get their knitting machine out of the case, learn it, have fun with it, and make things.

So, how difficult is machine knitting to learn?  Well, I don't want to compare it to rocket science because I don't know a thing about rocket science.  But I have tried to learn a few difficult things in my life.  For instance, isn't a musical instrument rather difficult to master? 

Learning to use a knitting machine is not anywhere as difficult as learning to play most musical instruments.  If you understand and follow the steps, good knitting happens.  So why do so many people struggle to learn to machine knit?

First of all, there aren't a lot of knitting machine dealers to give private lessons.  Even though most people have lots of clothing made on knitting machines, very few people own a knitting machine.  For the general public, these are alien objects.

If you try to learn on your own, most of the knitting machine manuals have small diagrams, puzzling lists and tables of instructions, and cryptic advice.  The machine's parts and tools are strange and unfamiliar.  They don't look like sewing machine parts, or hand knitting tools, or other gadgets in our ordinary lives.  They're different, and they have peculiar names.

I use a common teaching method, that is, breaking the tasks into their individual steps and then working to describe the step in sufficient detail to make each step easy.  Video is a wonderful medium for doing this, since I get to use pictures, sound, and movement, but diagrams and written instructions are often also necessary.

Most of the videos I do are free.  You can find them here:  https://www.youtube.com/user/dianaknits

I also have some for sale at www.dianaknits.com.  My Beginner Course is two DVDs, nothing fancy, just a methodical course.  If you'll just watch a lesson and do that one lesson each day, you'll be quite proficient in a little over a month! 



Friday, July 21, 2017

How to Improve Your Life (and the Lives of Others) With an Altruistic Hobby

How to Improve Your Life (and the Live of Others) With an Altruistic Hobby

Guest post by Maria Cannon

Photo courtesy of Pixabay by aitoff

Did you know that volunteer work and community service have some surprising health benefits? That’s right; as it turns out, your altruistic hobbies benefit more than just the community and those in need.

While altruism - or the act of selflessly giving to those in need - is often seen as an external benefit to those on the receiving end, recent scientific research is now indicating that these selfless actions might have mutual benefits for both parties - including a variety of health benefits. In fact, modern evolutionary psychologists now believe altruism is a particularly useful trait that humans evolved as a means of survival (and it’s not just humans; altruism has been observed in other members of the animal kingdom, too).

As one psychology website bluntly puts it: “Compassion, cooperation and community are key to our survival.” In addition to bringing happiness, joy and fulfillment, making a hobby out of doing charitable actions can actually improve your life in more tangible ways.

Here are just a few of the ways altruism helps you, in addition to helping those on the receiving end:

Mental Health
Whether you are feeling anxious or suffering from depression, incorporating a beloved hobby into your daily life can help reduce your stress levels and improve your mood.

Addiction Recovery
As any addict will tell you: recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is not easy. Luckily, hobbies can help make it a smoother process for you. Stress-reducing hobbies like yoga, tai chi, qi gong and meditation have been shown to be particularly effective among recovering addicts and alcoholics.

Mental Fitness
Hobbies challenge your brain by helping you to build new skills. As you gain these new skillsets, you will have feelings of accomplishment and increased confidence. In addition, particular hobbies such as yoga and tai chi have been shown to potentially reduce your chances of developing certain forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Self Esteem
Hobbies also provide opportunities for socializing and making new friends. As you get better at tasks you enjoy, you’ll become more confident and your self-esteem will naturally increase. Hobbying can be a great way to boost your confidence while also doing something you already love.

Think the benefits listed above are just one-time coincidences? Think again! Recent research has consistently shown that giving back to one’s own community can be as rewarding for the person doing the giving as it is for the person on the receiving end.


As you can see, there are many clear ways that altruistic hobbies can be beneficial for everyone involved. Next time you are thinking of doing a good deed, you will already know that there might be some surprising health benefits in store for you. In exchange for your kind behavior, you might actually be doing yourself some favors by possibly improving your physical, emotional and mental health. So… why not give back to your local community? After all, you’ll be helping others while also helping yourself.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A little fun de-stashing - and finding more knitters!

Here in Austin, we have an active Freecycle community.  This is a group where items are given away free.  You put up a "WANTED" ad if you need something, and put up an "OFFER" ad to give away items.  This is quite a resource when you're trying to be frugal about something specific you need and quite helpful when you just need to clean things out.

I recently was given a large, rather nice yarn stash.  I kept a few cones for myself, just couldn't resist, although I haven't enough room for all my yarn.  I shared some with my knitting club friends, but they have a lot of yarn, too, so I still had some.  I ran an ad on Freecycle to give away the rest.

I gave away yarn AND a bunch of duplicate machine knitting magazines, and in that process, I met a local lady who attends a weekly knit and crochet group who make things for charity.  She said some of the ladies have knitting machines, and in fact, she has one.  I was completely unaware of this sister group in our community.  Of course, I invited her to ours and she invited me to hers, and when I get back from Monroe, I plan to attend.  They're at a restaurant, but she said I can bring a portable machine.  A nice dinner and a new group of knitting friends - what's not to like?

This turned out to be a rather unusual way to find machine knitters! 

Monday, July 17, 2017

This Month's Video - Silver Needles Cone Winder

I meet a lot of beginning machine knitters, and if there's a rookie mistake most people make, it's not preparing their yarn before knitting - rewinding it.  Sure, there are instructions in the machine's manual telling you to do this, but the instructions don't tell you WHY to do it.

Your knitting machine uses yarn at an absolutely furious rate, yards in minutes.  It pulls it right into the yarn feeder, generally much too fast for you to notice a knot or a tangle.  Your machine will knit a knot right into your garment (usually in a TERRIBLY) visible place, and you won't know until you're sewing it together or blocking it.

Alternatively, your machine might choke on a knot or a tangle, giving you an absolutely horrendous mess - unjamming the machine, getting the knitting picked out or put back on needles, and getting the machine back into pattern.

Another problem is your yarn might be intended for hand knitting.  Machine knitting cone yarns have usually been treated to slide through the machine better than skeined yarns.  While you are preparing the yarn, you can hold a cheap candle against it, and you'll see a marked difference in how well the machine runs.

We have yarn winders for this, and I do love my Jumbo Yarn Winder, which makes a large, cake-shaped ball of yarn.  Once you wind yarn into a "cake," you get to choose whether to pull from the inside or the outside of the ball.  The inside is a straighter shot up to the machine's upper tension unit.  The outside works best if you leave the plastic core in the yarn. 

You need to be careful with winders not to wind your yarn too tightly.  Winding very tightly flattens the yarn and removes its elasticity.

The general rule is, you want your yarn to feed absolutely freely.  The only tension added to the fiber feeding should be from the machine.

Cakes, set on the floor, feed into the machine fairly well, but the very best way to feed the beast is with a cone on the floor.  I recently invested in a Silver Needles electric cone winder.  Now this is a blessing!  It puts my yarn on cones, which feed extremely well into my knitting machine.  For my circular sock machines, having the yarn coned makes an even bigger difference in ease of use and the evenness of the knitting.  In addition, the winder is fast, which means I can spend less time prepping yarn and more time knitting.

Here's my little video:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dyeing Sock Blanks at Knit Natters

I happen to love making socks on my machines, with my all-time favorites coming off my 100-year-old Legare 47.  It's old and rough-looking, but it does make a gorgeous sock.

Marta, in our knitting club, had dyed sock blanks and knitted matching hand-dyed socks, and the group begged her to teach us.  Last weekend, we had our shot.  We were supposed to show up with the sock blanks, knitted and ready to go.

Here's how I did my blanks - first, I rewound a 100-gram hank of undyed (natural color) sock yarn using my jumbo winder, which makes cake shapes. Then I grabbed out the center of the ball and weighed that.  I added a few yarns to get the 50 grams I needed.  I rewound both the balls, the small one and the one with the center gone, to make the yarn feed the same.  I threaded my bulky machine with a ball in each antenna, then put them in the machine together, e-wrapped on 65 needles, and knitted until I was almost out of yarn, binding off is a latch tool cast-off.   I actually made two sock blanks using 2 100-gram hanks of wool/cashmere yarn Marta had sourced from England.  Gorgeous, soft stuff.

At the club meeting, Barbara had covered the floor and tables at the church where we meet with painter's plastic.  Marta had brought the acid dyes.  She set up three pots of dipping dye and a whole bunch of small jars of painting dyes.

After we dipped, we brushed.  Marta had both brushes and cotton swabs, both of which worked just fine.  Everyone did something a little different.  After we dipped and painted, we rinsed until the water ran clear. 

I took mine home in a plastic bag, microwaved it to further set the dye, hung it over a plastic hanger and let it dry. 

The acid dyes Marta brought produced very rich, clear colors.  I made no effort to create any kind of a picture, because I knew that my blanks are 65 stitches in a big tension (T5 on my bulky) and my socks will be 72 very small stitches.  The colors are going to break up, but the two socks will be alike.  I just used dribbles and dabs of overdye on the purple blanks. 

After they dried, I thought making the blanks into two balls, one for each sock, would be a pain, but it was actually easy.  I did it alone - it would be a snap with a buddy and two yarn winders - just winding two balls which I rewound later with my lovely electric cone winder.  I have found cones are absolutely idea for my circular sock machine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Machine Knitting Retreat

A couple weekends ago, the Knit Natters went on a knitting retreat in the country.

The idea came up when we were contacted by Debbie Awtry, who owns and operates the Mountain Laurel Retreat.  It's a house out in the Texas Hill Country near New Braunfels (between San Antonio and Austin), a beautiful, peaceful location.  We hadn't ever done a retreat before, but we decided to go for it, and not to have any particular curriculum, but just show up, have fun, and do whatever knitting we felt like doing - "free range knitting."

In addition to some of our Central Texas ladies, we had a knitter who came from the Houston area and one from the DFW area.  We'd had nine signed up, but two had to cancel, and we ended up with seven women.

Barbara, Angelika, and I borrowed my hubby's SUV and loaded it to the gills.  We had machines, stands, partially finished projects, yarn, winders, tools, water and groceries, overnight bags, and so forth. Some of the ladies were willing to test mid-gauge patterns that are going in my new book, and I had brought along a pile of printed out drafts.  It was a gorgeous, hot summer Texas day, and Barbara drove while Angelika navigated and I goofed off.  We avoided all city traffic by taking the scenic route west of Austin. 

The Mountain Laurel retreat was a nice surprise, a good-sized, newer 3-bedroom house with current d├ęcor and an enormous work room.  That might have been a three or four car garage, but it's all beautifully finished and set up for quilters.  Debbie has everything immaculately clean, every kind of pot, pan or serving dish we might need, and her own quilts on every bed and on some walls, too.

That workroom is amazing!  The room is very brightly lit, clean and fresh, and she has lots of huge tables, two ironing boards, and several quilters' design boards on the walls.  These are large areas covered with batting where fabric pieces and blocks will stay in place so quilters can step back and look at their arrangements.  The room is stocked with comfortable, rolling purple office chairs. The tables were too thick for our machine clamps, but we were expecting that and had brought along stands or anti-slip shelf paper, which works well for the lightweight portable plastic bed machines. 

Debbie's own beautiful quilts are all over the house.  This lady can match points!  Her workmanship is wonderful.  She has several twin beds in each of the bedrooms, and the great room has a giant kitchen, big dining area and big sitting area.  The house really would work fine for 12 people. 

Marta and Pat were already there, and Marta had brought a swift, her tools (she's our club's very own Ms. Fixit), a yarn winder, and her knitting gear as well as undyed yarn for our upcoming sock blank dyeing project (not at the retreat, at an upcoming regular meeting).  They'd gone to dinner and were working away, knitting.  Ruth came from the Houston area, and Karen came from the Dallas area, and we had our full group.

Carl, Barbara's husband, had picked up the groceries for us.  Carl had hit a warehouse store as well as the local grocery, purchasing so much food we changed our plans and didn't go out to eat at all Saturday, just munched away at the goodies from Carl and other snacks some of the ladies had brought along. 

The retreat is a very different experience from a regular knit club meeting.  First of all, you get such a great opportunity to get to know each other!  I found out things about these ladies that I didn't know after going to knit club with them for years.  I am so impressed with all of them!  Secondly, we were all knitting and collaborating.  A couple of the ladies remarked at how useful that was for learning, because there was a whole group of knitters to give suggestions for the situations that developed.  In addition, knitters are such nice people, and everyone was very kind, helpful and considerate, which made food prep and cleanup a snap.

One of the things that just did my soul good was being away from home and all my normal responsibilities and interruptions.  I couldn't really feel guilty about what I wasn't getting done when it wasn't there to do, could I?  I greatly appreciated the change of scenery.

I had thought a whole weekend of knitting would feel like forever, but the time flew by.  We had all kinds of socializing while we knitted (and before and after, too), so that even the plain parts of the knitting weren't boring.  Angelika and Pat tested several of my patterns and gave me lots of corrections for the new book.  They were tremendously great sports about all the errors and omissions.  Not only that, but after the retreat was over, photos of their finished items are a good part of my book.  I love a photo-filled book!

We had a wonderful discussion Saturday night, and I thought to myself, I LOVE these women.  One thing I don't tend to do is take time for close friendships.  My everyday life is rushed, and this was not rushed.  There is just no substitute for taking enough time, feeling a sense of community.  Debbie has televisions in the retreat house, but we didn't turn them on.

I got a bit of knitting done, myself, samples I needed for the new book. 

Will we do it again?  Probably.  At the very least, we'll have more knit-ins, where we set up machines in the morning at the church and knit all day together. 

Here's our group, from left, Marta, Barbara, Angelika, Ruth, Pat and Karen!  I'm taking the picture :)


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Whassup?

Oh, I know I've been quiet.  Awfully quiet here, for a chatterbox like me.

I've been busy and had a series of issues that kept me off balance.

First, John's mom got very, very sick, was hospitalized a whole month, had two brain surgeries and a stint at a rehab hospital.  She's home now, and doing okay, but this was terribly serious and she's in her 90s.

A few weeks later, I got sick.  I spent a night and a morning at the hospital to rule out heart trouble, but it was a nasty reflux flare-up.  After a change in my meds, eliminating a couple food items, and a couple weeks of relative peace, I was much better.

John had a work crisis and a horrendous problem with work deadlines.  He's been working crazy hours and is almost finished with the situation.

I had an insect sting about a week ago that turned into a 4" round pink and red bulls-eye on my leg very quickly.  It looked like something from a Lyme disease article!  The doc gave me antibiotics, which cleared it up.

Through all of this, work's been very busy, I've been going to evening meetings, and I've been trying to finish my upcoming mid-gauge machine knitting book.  It's in the pattern testing phase right now.  It also really needs some photos to get it out of its current sad black-and-white, are-these-really-projects phase. 

Every spare minute I'm running to the knitting room to do a little more, try another idea, edit a little video, or wind more yarn to get ready to knit.

Some really great things are coming up really soon: 

First of all, this weekend, our knitting club is having a retreat at a center in the Hill Country near New Braunfels, Texas.  We haven't been there before, but the pictures are lovely.  We aren't having a seminar, just a "free range" knitting time and some fun and fellowship.  Doesn't that sound great?  We've never done anything quite like this before.  I'll report back and let y'all know how it went for us.

Secondly, in July, I'm teaching at the Monroe Machine Knitting Seminar.  It's going to be super this year (again).  How do I know this?  Well, Larry and Cathy Reaume have done this for years and are organized experts, the venue is a wonderful spacious college campus setup, they always have several teachers, and they bring in a chef to do great food.  Just hanging around that many knitters is a mind-altering experience. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Office Violet

After a long history of no luck with African violets, I am having real success with a windowsill in my office and self-watering pots.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Finished My Afghan

For my last Knit Natters demo, I came up with a tuck lace afghan on my bulky machine.  I saw an idea in a magazine, then swatched, fiddled, and came up with my version.

With my swatches, I played around with fringe, tassels, and edgings, and I decided that a simple hem made the most professional finish for the latched panels.  The stitch has 3 needles in work and one out, and I used the same needle arrangement for the hems.  The mattress-stitched hems ensure every panel meets perfectly at the ends and lies nicely.

When I went to knit club, all I had done were the panels.  The panels still needed to be latched together, the sides had to be latched to make a pretty edge, and the hems, top and bottom, needed mattress stitched.  

For grown-ups, I like a big afghan.  This is about 5 feet by 6 six feet. I used two cones of dark and two cones of light, but I still have about 10 ounces of each color (4 cones of 5 ounces each).   


To my surprise, that all went very fast, and I enjoyed the finishing process.  I had used two strands of Tamm Star in a wine color and a soft rose color.  I thought perhaps having those two strands separate as I unraveled and latched might make the process tedious, but once I found an old latch hook for making rugs (it's big, and I needed the space to hold all the loops) it was terrific.

Using a tried-and-true cone yarn, stranded like this, is my new favorite afghan yarn supply.  This blanket had two cones of the same yarn for each panel, but for some afghans I made a while back, I actually used three thinner yarns to make a "tweed," a mixture of different colors. You don't need so very much of each color, and the finished result is quite interesting.

The color is truer in the close-up; that is, the wine is a little darker, but the rose is about right on my monitor.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Upcoming Seminar

I'm teaching at Knit Knack Shop's Spring Fling next weekend!

Have you been to Spring Fling?  Put on by Charlene Shafer's Knit Knack Shop, this is one of the relatively few larger seminars.  It's held at a fairgrounds in Peru, Indiana, has multiple teachers, incredible shopping (Knit Knack has just about anything you need for your machine knitting), and incredible fellowship with over a hundred knitters.

You can pick and choose from a great lineup of classes for Friday and then more for Saturday.  The teachers this year are Sandee Cherry, Susan Guagliumi, Carol Scott, Carol Wurst, and me.

I'm certainly looking forward to this.  My friend Barbara Deike is going with me to help out, and we always have a great time, visiting with fellow knitters and shopping a bit, ourselves!

Click here for more information.