Saturday, September 30, 2017

3 Way to Make Your Knitting Less Stressful

Joining the folded hem on The Gigi Hat
(read on for a little backstory)
I read somewhere that blog posts with "number of ways to [blank]" are more eye catching and people like them more. I don't know why; they always irritate me. But heck, I'll do it anyway.

I used to teach a lot of knitting classes before "real" life got in the way. One time I even went on riverboat cruise (with a genuine sternwheeler!) and taught a beginner's lace pattern -- that was the pattern "24 Carats" available on Ravelry (free!) and so named because there are 24 diamonds and you can practice three different double decreases.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not very good at teaching brand new knitters; I haven't had enough practice to develop the right language to make knitting "click" in someone's brain. But I genuinely love to teach new knitters to expand their skills and abilities.

When I would teach a class, there were several things I would repeat over and over again. I don't know if it was helpful or not, but no one ever told me to stop. (I'm sure some of my old students would be able to tell you, yes, he used to say those things. A lot.)

  1. "It's Just Knitting." -- It's just yarn and two sticks. The fate of the world does not rest in your hands. Enjoy yourself. If you make a mistake, don't panic because there are really only two options: fix it (either rip back or some other method of "fixing"), or forget it. And you know what kind of person you are. If you can ignore a mistake and still be happy, forget it; if you will always focus on the mistake every time you see the project, fix it.
  2. "It Will Fit Someone." -- This mainly applied to hats and scarves, projects that either don't have to fit perfectly, or are small enough that you can knit them relatively quickly. (A little secret about my hat designs: I've never swatched any of them for gauge before I knitted them, only after when writing the pattern.) Especially for hats, they will fit someone. Is the baby hat too small or too big? I don't know. It will fit a baby!
  3. "There Is No Right or Wrong, There Is Only Generally Accepted." -- So many times I'd hear a knitter complain "I'm not doing it right" or "What is the right way to work this stitch" and I'd always say "Generally, most knitters/most books will tell you to do [this], but the end result is [that] so however you get there is good." This applied a lot to techniques like left-leaning decreases, cables and, oddly, stockinette. (The stockinette was probably mainly because a lot of people knit twisted and I'd explain the difference but, you know what, a lot of people knit a lot of twisted stitch patterns! Who am I to judge?)
A little bit more on that third point? There are so many self-appointed knitting police out there in the world (and no actual knitting police) that it can be difficult to find your own way, especially when you're new to a craft. I refuse to listen to them. You can if you want; but I think you'd be less stressed if you didn't.

And I'd like to tack on a 4th thing: "Patterns Are Usually Guidelines." Now I know this would sound counter-intuitive, but I'll elaborate. Yes, the numbers and stitch pattern and such - if you don't follow them, you may not end up with the pattern you envisioned. But maybe that's a good thing. There are so many reasons to change stitch counts (sizing) or patterns (maybe you hate cables but love the shape of the finished design). But the other place where you should use the pattern as a guideline: techniques.

I recently was trying to occupy some time in a hotel room on vacation and had packed two balls of Rowan Felted Tweed Aran from my stash and found a really great pattern on Raverly: The Gigi Hat by Margot Allen (free!). It's a different shape than I'd knitted before so I was curious to see how it would work up. Plus it has my favorite thing in a hat, a folded hem.

I whipped out my yarn and appropriate needles (no gauge swatch, see Point 2 above) and then read down the pattern: "With scrap yarn and using your favorite provisional cast on method..." Uh oh. Don't get me wrong; I love a provisional cast on--my personal favorite is crochet cast on and quite a few of my patterns use it--but I'm 6 hours from home with only a few knitting supplies and no scrap yarn.

So I just started with long tail cast on and got stitches on the needle and got started. I know that I can pick up from the cast on edge; I've done it before. And you know what, it worked this time, too. And I learned that there isn't a HUGE benefit to going through the provisional cast on. Yes, the inside edge isn't as neat but, guess what? No one will ever see it. Well, maybe whoever wears the hat, but it's INSIDE!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sometimes Titles Are Difficult So This Is The One Where I Talk About What I Watch When I Knit

Knitters knit and crocheters crochet everywhere. Anywhere. It's one benefit to the hobby. Unlike, say, dressmaking or quilting or furniture building or piano playing, I can knit pretty much anywhere. But this means I mainly just carry a knitting project around a lot and then sit on my couch and knit while I watch television. I'm not even ashamed.

I mean, should I probably get more exercise? Yep, but then that cuts into knitting time and I need to knit more and design more and become a world famous knitting designer. Or maybe I should skip the knitting for a while, exercise a whole bunch, eat healthy and then, when I'm really "hot", take lots of pictures of me knitting and become famous that way.

Sitting on the couch sounds easier.

Besides, if I didn't sit on the couch, knit and watch television, I wouldn't be able to have conversations with strangers about television shows. It's such an easy way to find common ground.

In 2017, though, it's more than just television. There are so many different options for consuming media at home that it can be difficult to narrow it down. I'm one of those darned cord-cutters the cable industry hates but, fortunately for them, I'm still addicted to the internet; that's how I get all the media.

Let's do a run-down of what I'm watching when I knit (and sometimes when I'm just laying on the couch like a bump on a log. And I'd love to get suggestions from you, too! Don't be shy.


Pretty much the holy grail for media in a cord-cutter's home, Netflix used to fuel the bulk of my entertainment time. Lately, I've found myself watching less and less, mainly tuning in when I just want some background noise.

It's a bit on the nose, but I definitely recommend "Slow TV: National Knitting Evening." It's perfect for just background noise and gentle entertainment. I mean, the most exciting thing is... It's not exciting. I'll be perfectly honest. And because I don't speak Norwegian, I miss a lot -- sometimes it's difficult to read subtitles and knit -- but I don't even care. I still love it.
For sheer ridiculousness and jokes I'll always laugh at, I will always turn to "The IT Crowd." I'm not even going to try to explain it. Just do it.
And one more favorite that I've watched multiple times, and will watch again and again: "Better Off Ted." The cast is fantastic, the situations ridiculous, the dialogue snappy. The most disappointing thing is finding out the show was cancelled too early and there aren't enough episodes.

Amazon Prime

I absolutely cannot recommend more the series "BrainDead" on Amazon Prime. If you're trying to make sense of today's really confusing political climate in a way that is absolutely nonsensical, watch this series. It follows Laurel, her pals Gustave and Rochelle, and her philandering brother/senator, as they investigate space bugs. Space bugs! Bonus, every episode begins with an amazing recap song like this one:


Don't fight it anymore; join the YouTube revolution. It's not just stupid cat videos and kids badly lip syncing to terrible pop songs. I've discovered so many cool things but mainly I love to watch people create. It's so inspiring to just be "around" creative people and feed off of their positive energy. It makes me want to learn and try new things. On the knitting side of things, I'd suggest Grocery Girls Knit, kristyglassknits and the new podcast Dogstar Knits.

The Grocery Girls are funny and prolific knitters and really encourage other knitters. They've got a second show on the Craftsy channel called "Off Our Needles". Kristy Glass has some really great interviews with people in the knitting/yarn crafting world (typically, I loved her "Man"ch series - interviews in March with men who knit). Dogstar Knits is a husband and wife duo that has a really chill aesthetic. Dogstar Knits only has four episodes so far but fingers crossed for a lot more.

It's really interesting to see how people approach the knitting lifestyle from many different angles--as crafters, as interviewers and as designers and dyers. These are the kinds of videos I like to watch to make me a better member of the knitting community.

But on the non-knitting side of YouTube, don't be afraid to deep dive for off the wall things, like The Great Pottery Throw Down, which is, yes, a pottery version of the Great British Bake Off! But with clay! It's amazing!


When I want to feel intellectual and take a surface look into deep subjects, I'll flip over to and start watching any of their many videos. Some of the videos I've found inspiring:

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 7 - Putting It All Together

It's Labor Day Weekend, the traditional end of summer. You know what that means? Autumn is literally around the corner. Cooler and shorter days, more gray skies, then winter and snow and sleet and windy: my favorite weather. It's time to really kick scarf, shawl and hat knitting into overdrive.

I don't know if it's a knitter thing, but I'm very uninterested in making sure that my knitwear matches my coats. I know when people ask me to knit for them, I always hear "well, my coat is blue, so I want a blue scarf" or "I have a gray jacket and need a gray scarf." Why do non-knitters want their accessories to disappear into their outerwear? I'm very much a fan of wearing whatever strikes my fancy and if that means I wear a gold hat with a pink scarf and blue gloves, so be it! I want all the color!

I'm very excited that this winter I'll have a bright bright BRIGHT pink scarf. You've seen it; it's Raven Rocks! So the design is done and I'm happy with it. I like how it blocked and dried and how it hangs. It's going to be so warm during the cold winter months. Most likely, though, it'll be purloined by some family member who decides she wants it more than I do. I'm okay with that.

The hardest part comes next: putting the whole pattern together. By my quick count, this scarf will have about 10 different charts. In addition to the charts, I'll probably put together written instructions for knitters that don't like charts (I don't judge). Plus instructions and directions and tips and abbreviations and pictures and materials and tools.

Frankly, when I'm a world famous knitting designer, or really, when I can afford it, I'll just design and then send the charts and notes off to someone else who will put it all together for me. It's my least favorite part.

If you're at all interested in spying on me and my editing process, I'll work on it in Google Docs, which you can access here: Raven Rocks Google Doc