Monday, October 9, 2017

Karen: On (and Off) my needles and hooks, October 2017

I've knitted and crocheted a ton this month! The weather's cooling down, which makes me want to knit and crochet more and more. We just had our first snow day here in Denver, so I decided now would be a good time to update on what is on and off my needles!

Finished projects:

Sweater Sampler

First up is the knitted sweater sampler! While it looks like an ugly fish-shaped thing, it's actually a practice in a ton of techniques from the Sweater Workshop book by Jacqueline Fee! I've already started using this thing as a reference for the sweater I'm working on right now. Super useful for a demonstration of a bunch of techniques.

Alpaca Infinity Scarf

This is the scarf that was a work in progress back in August. The edges curl up a bit more than I'd like (should probably block it sometime soon), but it's super soft and warm for winter! Love the texturing that the knit-slip stitching lends.

Wings Shawl

I decided to play with some of the Caron Cakes yarn to make this shawl, which was a lot of fun! I really like the feather effect on these, but I'd like to do a shawl in a finer weight yarn at some point (this one is worsted weight). It is just asking to be blocked, though, which I haven't gotten around to yet. Here's the pattern, in case you're interested:

Bunny Scarf

Next up is a crocheted bunny scarf! I used a couple of other scarf patterns (a raccoon and a moose) for reference, but otherwise designed this myself! This one was for Peter, since he loves bunnies (honestly, who doesn't?). I needle felted on the eyes and patterning, made a pom pom for the tail, and sewed on yarn for the nose. I'm pretty happy with how he turned out! Here's the Etsy site that I bought the moose and raccoon patterns from (I've made both of them before):

Crocheted Fruit Basket

This was freehand, and a request from Bob. It ended up a little large for the basket, since it stretches quite a bit, so I tied a string around the bottom to tighten it.

Crocheted Squirtle Amigurimi

I found this adorable pattern for a tiny pokemon, and decided it would be a great way to use up a little bit of extra yarn! This was a pretty quick project, which was great for between the bigger projects. Here's the pattern!

Phew, that's a lot! Now on to what's on my needles right now!

Works in Progress:

Sweater for Mom

I'm being way too ambitious right now. Going for making a sport-weight sweater for my mom for Christmas. I'm using this pattern: and I'm maybe 5-10% of the way done right now. Very excited for how it turns out, though!

Koi Pond Socks

This is not technically on the needles yet, but I got a recent Knitpicks order (included the yarn for the sweater for my mom), and I love this yarn! I'll be starting a pair of socks with it soon, as a break from the long haul of the sweater.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dana: On (and Off) my needles August 2017

While I feel like it's been a slow go of things, with all the summer activities and travels, in writing this I am surprised by how much I've actually done!

Finished Projects:

Spring Highway Yarn (and intended project):
I'm really excited about my handspun/hand-dyed 'spring-highway' colorway. I got the fiber a few months back from SewGreen Ithaca, a local fiber and sewing reuse shop, labelled 'wool roving'. It will be one of the next 'on-the-needles' projects as Vivid Mitts by Jungmi Ryu. I hoping to get them going and finished before this winter sets in...

Squares for Blanket/Quilt:
Not too long ago Betsy and I came up with blanket KAL. The idea was, by next fall/winter, we would have made a woolen blanket from our many scraps of yarn from our many projects. I originally thought I would knit my squares as swatches of different patterns, killing two birds with one stone: working on the KAL and learning new stitch patterns as well. BUT with all of my other knitting projects working and waiting I started to think maybe I wanted to do something 'easier & quicker' then knitting swatches... Enter my long forgotten pin loom, which I purchased 3 years ago then quickly forgot about. It is PERFECT for this project, a quick little weave with the end of a skein and voila a 4" square to add to my blanket.

Rainbow Socks (Version 0.3):
In my 'On (and Off) my Needles June 2017' post I had shared the version 0.1 of this sock. The completed sock is version 0.3. I had, for a long time dreamed of getting my hands on Zauberball sock yarn, and when I saw it for sale on Webs (I think it was Webs) I jumped at the opportunity! The plan was to do a simple vanilla sock with short row toe and afterthought short row heel (I read that afterthought heels are perfect for self-striping yarn to keep the rows nice and neat). Version 0.1 I was disappointed in the toe, too loose compared to the tube. Version 0.2 I got bored with straight stockinette. Version 0.3 I am happy with the results! I added a simple eyelet pattern, tightened up the short-row toe, and changed from a short row heel to a standard afterthought heel and followed Elizabeth Zimmerman's recommendation of taking 2/3rds of the stitches to make a heel rather than 1/2.

Works in Progress:

Stole: Print-o-the-wave by, Eunny Jang:
No picture becuase it is all bunched up on 24" circular needles in preparartion for the knitted on edge. This project I start and stop at, so it is not moving so quickly. All the other things keep taking precedence. I will finish it though, as it is a beautiful pattern and I can't wait to see it completed (or apparently I can). :)

Targhee from SheepSpot Breedschool:
A few months ago I signed up for Sheepspot's Breed School, and so far I am really happy I did (although I would say it is a bit expensive for the quantity, the specificity of the intention is worth it). Every other month I receive ~4oz of breed specific wool along with a bit about the breed and ideas/encouragement in how to spin it. With an emphasis on sampling and recognizing this wools traits. Last month I received ~4oz of Targhee. A beautiful cloudy soft squishy (aka crimpy) breed. Having opted for the un-dyed plan I am also able to flex my color muscles. Touching this wool made me think of cotton candy pastel. The intention is to spin a thicker yarn with a light twist and knit it into a simple squishy cowl...

Back in June Karen, Betsy, Nilay, Ela,  and myself visited Crooked Creek Farm in Brooktondale, NY. Amy and her husband raise Cormo/Rambouillet/Finn sheep. Not only did we spend a great evening visiting we came home with some beautiful fleece! I purchased  a total of 8 lbs of fleece: 5 lbs of Axil (grey-ish), 2 lbs of Charlie (dark chocolate brown), and 1lb general fine white. I am still working on cleaning and processing Axil, and love how he is spinning up! After some sample spins I decided to spin him into a 2ply woolen short draw with ~40-degree twist. So far so good! (Added side note, I really love spinning on my dealgan!!!)

Dream Items:

Just something I've been salivating over...
Kick Spindle by True Creations

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Karen: On (and Off) the needles, August 2017

Taking after Dana in this, I wanted to share what I've been working on, and what's been finished!

Off the Needles: Simple Hand-dyed Socks

I started these so long ago, like, before I both started and finished a sweater and a move halfway across the country, long ago. The yarn was KnitPicks superwash, dyed at a dying party with Betsy and Dana (and Nilay and Ella).

I am in love with how the yarn turned out in these, so I decided to stick with a simple stockinette stitch for the body, with a seed stitch stripe accent across the front and back of the socks. Used the heel flap method, should try short rows as per Betsy's suggestion sometime in the near future.

On the Needles: Sweater Sampler

The sweater sampler from The Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee has been on my needles for a little while, since before the move a month ago. I am a huge fan of this book and project, as it teaches so many techniques and options for use in the making of a sweater. From looking at how different ribbings look, to increasing and decreasing in pairs, to colorworking and stripes, this ugly fish-shaped project going to be a reference for sweater options for years to come. I highly recommend the book and the sweater sampler project.

This is super close to the end of it, and I'm eager to start a sweater for my husband at some point in the near future!

On the Needles: Alpaca Infinity Scarf

It's no secret that I love super soft yarn, particularly alpaca. I found this 100% baby alpaca yarn on sale at a local yarn and crafts shop called Fancy Tiger Crafts, and I couldn't do without it. I'm making a thick, textured (a simple knit-slip or slip-knit alternating with knit rows) infinity scarf a la Jessica Jones style. This stuff (I think it's Blue Sky alpaca) is gloriously soft, sport weight, and I'm excited for the resulting winter and fall fluffiness!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

On the Needles: Sunset Socks

In between my heel series elements, I've been experimenting with sock blanks! I dyed this one in a orange-purple-grey gradient, and am now making up some socks. The sock blank is endlessly entertaining to knit from, and I love how the gradient turned out (even though it's not really what I imagined!). I'll have to do a sock blank gradient tutorial some time!

Now, for the question everyone's thinking: What heels will they have??? You'll have to wait and see!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Heels, Vol. I: German Short Rows

The German short row heel!

One of the things I hope to do on this blog is an exploration of different sock heels. Knitters (me included) tend to have very strong feelings about sock heels, which makes sense as heel choices involve a couple different emotionally-fraught subjects: aesthetics, fit, tradition, longevity -- you get the idea.

My plan is to wade into this argument by knitting up samples of an assortment of different heel styles. I'll think about how they fit (for me), ease of construction (for me), how they look (in my opinion), and anything else that occurs to me.

To start us off, here is my standard sock heel: the German short row heel. I generally prefer short row heels to heel flaps, because, if we're being honest, I just think they're prettier.


This heel is worked over half the stitches. It's a pretty standard short-row shape, where you first make a wedge that gets narrower each row, then a wedge that gets wider each row until you're back to the original half-the-stitches width. The things that distinguish the German short row heel are the doppelmaschen (double stitches) used to close the holes at the end of the short rows, and the boomerang rows.

There's always holes to deal with at the end of short rows -- here is an excellent explanation of why -- and there are a million ways to deal with them. The way it's done in German short rows is by slipping the final stitch of the row and tugging the yarn over the needle to make a "double stitch", or doppelmasche. There's a lovely tutorial on making the doppelmaschen here. Eventually I'll have to do a comparison of different short row techniques specifically, but I like German short rows because I find them easy to work, easy to see when I'm ready to knit them later, but very discreet in the finished item, on both the inside and the outside.

The boomerang rows are an extra set of rows between the two heel wedges, which basically serve to eat up the doppelmaschen (or whatever funny stitches you used to close your short-row holes) that you made on the first wedge before you make some more on the second wedge. It makes it a lot easier to see where you are, since there's only one wedge's worth of doppelmaschen going on at a time. The boomerang rows are not, I think, strictly necessary for a German short row heel, but I see them more often than not.

Here's a diagram  of what's going on in the German short row heel. Imagine you've sliced your sock down the center front and spread it out, cutting out the separate pieces of the heel and laying them out. This is what you would see. On top is the part of the sock that goes around the ankle -- just a tube. Then we get the first heel wedge, which starts at half the width of the sock and narrows to a quarter of the sock. Then we get the boomerang rows, and then the other wedge, starting from a quarter of the width of the sock back up to half the width. Then, we're down to the foot part of the sock, and back up to the full width. This is pretty much what any short row heel will look like in this exploded view -- the wedges might be wider or narrower, shorter or taller, there might or might not be boomerang rows, but they'll all have these same general parts.

Finally, thoughts on fit. First off, let me say that I've never had a problem with the way short row heels fit in general. Die-hard heel flap fans often complain about the fit of short row heels, and, who knows, maybe I'll see the light when I try one here in a bit. But I've never had an issue. The main fit issue I tend to have with hand-knit socks is that they're super hard to get on over my heel, even if they fit great once they're on. I think this is because I have a pretty narrow forefoot -- a lot of sock recipes have you measure around the ball of your foot to choose your size, but since my foot is narrower than they're expecting there I end up with a sock that's too tight to go over my heel. This is a new theory, though -- we'll see how it plays out.
Cameo appearance by Jack

One thing I do notice on seeing this heel in isolation, so to speak, is that there seems to be quite a bit of extra fabric over the top of my ankle, opposite the heel. It's not apparent when my foot is pointed, like in the first picture, but when it's flat it's quite noticeable. I'll keep an eye on this in future heel installments and see if I see any patterns.

If you want to make some German short row heels yourself, here is a nice tutorial!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cast-On: Simple Half-Hitch

My Cast-On adventure begins with one of the simplest cast-on techniques... The Simple Half Hitch Cast-on  (also known as: Thumb cast on or Backward's loop cast on).

The experiment:
For every technique I will make at least 2 swatches, a stockinette and a k2,p2 rib, and if a specific use is recommended for the technique, I will include a swatch that represents that technique as well. In this case the, being that I had read that one of the 'better' uses for the simple half hitch is lace, I made a 3rd swatch using the vine lace pattern from

The results:
I did not like any of the final swatches. The simple half-hitch cast on resulted in an edge that was:
  • Very unstable (loose) with absolutely no structure. 
  • Very stretchy.
  • Very unattractive especially with stockinette (slightly nicer on rib).
Notice all the very's? To me that implies it is an extreme, and I can probably find a better cast-on stitch for a given situation. That being said, I would consider it for two conditions... 

...teaching someone to knit. The simple half hitch is so simple to learn and makes the beginning knitter feel as if they could get going on their own. I would absolutely use this technique to get them started, then as they build confidence in their knitting show them something more attractive. ad hoc provisional cast-on, but knowing how to do a 'proper' provisional cast on I don't see why I would us it, other than it is super easy.




Did you play with, or are you familiar with the Simple Half Hitch Cast-on? What are your favourite uses for this technique?  Do you like it, not like it? I'd love to hear what you have to say, so please comment with your thoughts!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cast On: Introduction

The original idea for this blog was that we would work our way through The Principles of Knitting (think Julie and Julia circa 2009), and of course it grew from there to include knitting/spinning/woolly projects and adventures (which has been the primary focus so far in our writing). Well, last night, as I was dreaming up ways to knit Cara (the beautiful yarn I purchased from Prado de Lana), I realized it was time for me to begin exploring the structures and features of different cast-on's.

Cara, is a 2 ply, DK weight, worsted spun Romney long wool. Being worsted spun long wool she has a nice drape about her, being Romney she is plumper and softer than other long wool's, being 2 ply DK weight she would work best in 'open' stitch patterns where stitch definition is not important. She also has this beautiful twist in her spin that I don't want to lose in rows and rows of stockinette so... I imagined her as a warming caplet to be used on cool summer/fall evenings.

I drew up a few ideas for the body structure and found some flattering stitch designs for texture. Then I asked myself how should I begin and I realized I didn't know where to begin, literally...

...and so my Cast On exploration began...

Over the next few weeks I will be knitting a number of swatches (hopefully) covering all the cast on's mentioned in The Principles of Knitting. I will do 2 - 3 swatches for each method, a stockinette, a rib, and a recommended appropriate use. From this I hope to gain an appreciation for the different cast on methods and how I might best use them in the future. I encourage you to do the same and work with me through this process, comment your thoughts/ideas/recommendations. (I will end each post with what the next cast on method will be as well as a link to a video tutorial I've found somewhere on the interweb).

Next Cast On: Simple Half-Hitch (video by Get to it Girl)