Category Archives: how-to

Name in Pixels

Have you seen the latest issue of Spindle and Wheel?

Have you checked out the free patterns? Did you notice anything… familiar?

That’s right! My little Autumn Tea Cozy has now hit the big time as Tea Time!

There’s also my fast-and loose SuperQuick Fingerless Mitts! These were so easy to knit it barely feel right to call it a ‘pattern’, but ever since these babies have come off the needles I’ve been wearing them. I had bunch of end-bits from a pet skein of Manos Del Uruguay, and these mitts were my way of making sure every last meter got used up (I absolutely heart this yarn!).

quick fingerless mitts

I also knit me a matching Calorimetry (pattern modified for gauge), and wouldn’t you know it but there’s an article up at S&W on that too! (Great minds think alike, eh?)

It may not be as fancy as getting published in Interweave or Vogue, but I’m still pretty happy to see my name up in pixels. Thanks to Allena and Beau at Spindle and Wheel for being such nice, supportive and all-around cool indy publishers!

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Filed under free patterns, how-to, knitting

FO: Samhain Stockings

Just in time for the end of Socktoberfest, I have a completed pair of socks! Perhaps what I have lacked this month in numbers is made up a bit by length and festiveness?


autumn knee-high socks

Samhain Stockings!

I knit these most of the way to and from Virginia (hooray for car-knitting time!), and so have completed them in about 2 weeks. They’re a simple sock ‘recipe” — toe-up socks on the magic loop, though I knit these one at a time.

autumn sock details
Short row heel and toe.

Varying my game a bit, all the while keeping things simple for work the car, I used a shot-row toe to perfectly match my short-row heel, both out of my solid-coloured yarn. This actually kept things really neat — 56 stitches total, 28 per side, and when I’d knit about halfway up my leg (where one would cast off for a regular sock), I increased 2 stitches every fifth row four times, so that I had a 64 stitch sock (both of these numbers are ones I’m used to with sock-knitting). Then I just knit until I ran out of yarn (seriously: sock #1 is slightly longer than the other!), joined in the solid yarn again, and knit twisted-stitch 1×1 ribbing until I was done! I cast off in the ‘Russian’ way, which I like, but I may have to run some elastic thread through it to keep the socks on if I’m doing a lot of walking.

autumn knee-highs

Samhain Stockings
Pattern: generic toe-up socks (see above)
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock in “Autumn” (one skein, divided in half), and Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in “Chocolate”
Needles: 1 long 2.25mm circular (magic loop)
Started & Finished: October 2007!

zombie cat
This Hallowe’en I have no costume, though I did wear my new stockings today. Arddu, however, is going out as a Zombie!!

Happy Hallowe’en!!

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FO and PSA

FO: Monkey Socks!!

red

red

Details
Pattern: Monkey Socks
Yarn: handspun merino, hand-dyed with Kool-Aid
Needles: 2.25mm DIY birch dpns (see PSA below)
Project Timeline: June 17-22, 2007
Modifications: picot cuff; only 5 reps. of pattern for leg; “Eye of Partridge” heel.

Dudes, are these things ever addictive! The lace pattern is so easy to memorize, they just seem to knit themselves. What a satisfying knit!

I’ve already started a pair for Dru (a belated birthday present):
Monkey sock for Dru

PSA: DIY Birch dpns.

Ok, you see those dpns there on that sock? Perfectly normal looking needles, right? 100% birch. Nice and smooth, great for socks.

Well, my friends, if you have $3.20 in your pocket and a Lee Valley store near by, needles just like these can be yours. One pack actually contains 100 birch mini-dowels, 6″ long and 2.25mm (1/16″) in diameter. Yeah, sure, you have to file them to points by yourself, and a bit of sanding makes them guaranteed sliver-free, but still, you do the math: 100 needles for about $3.20. A bit better than what Brittany or Clover charges, eh? (They come in 50-packs of 1/8″ diameter, too!)

Want a close-up?
DIY dpns DIY dpns

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DIY Drop Spindle: Take 2

Last week I gave away my two bottom-whorl spindles (the Celtic one and a plain one), along with some fibre, to two lovely young ladies new to the SCA to get them addicted too encourage the craft. This is all well and fine with me (I can’t wait to see how they do!), but it does leave me with nothing by my now-definitely-too-heavy furniture-caster spindle and my ugly-but-zippy top-whorl clay spindle. Of course for me, this means time to make more spindle whorls!

The art-clay is fine, but I’ve now observed that it takes a good few days to fully cure, and let’s just say I’m not renowned for patience… I thought this time around I’d try polymer clay: I bought me some Fimo from the local art store ($2.50 ea.), which can be “fired” in your own oven. I also hoped that the polymer clay could make some “prettier” spindles :)

I found this great little tutorial on making Lentil Swirled Beads (such a cool site! check out her other stuff, too!), and tried to follow her directions. I didn’t get nearly as spiral-ly beads as I’d hopes, but I was using inferior tools (a CD case and dinnerplate). I made one large bead with about 1/3 pkg red & 1/3 pkg black, and a smaller one using maybe 1/4 red & black with a blob of white .

large polymer clay spindle-whorl
This spindle is bigger than it looks; maybe a little too heavy, even, but I’m learning good things about spindle weight through these experiments.

small polymer clay spindle whorl
This spindle is smaller than it looks, with a bamboo skewer shaft (not dowel). It’s my favorite of this bunch.

Then I smooshed some stuff together that hadn’t been working out well at all into a funny little high-whorl.

polymer clay high-whorl top
(top view)
polymer clay high-whorl underside
(underside)

On the whole, these spindles are still not quite as pretty as I’d hoped, but I have some faith that with practice I could have success with polymer clay (how about a Faux Ivory spindle?). For now, it remains inexpensive, accessable (more so than wood and woodworking tools!), and quick (even though I didn’t get around to firing them until the next night); I’d definitely recommend other home-spindle-makers to “give it a whirl”!

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DIY Drop Spindle Saga II

Or, How To Make A Drop Spindle For Under $5 Using Sheer Bloody-Mindedness And Excessive Stinginess.

A while back I made my first drop spindle using little more than stubbornness. While I certainly have had a moderate amount of success using this caster-wheel spindle, I also am more aware of it’s flaws. (Those of you who were foolhardy enough to follow my directions might want to take notes.) For one, it’s heavy at around 3oz. Defintly too heavy for spinning fine, which I want to do. For two, because it’s heavy, the wheel slowly pushed the tape down the shaft, causing a shift in balace and a slightly sticky mess. I’ve re-taped the thing more than once now – yes, I know that glue would fix this, I just didn’t want to stop and wait for it to dry when I’d already started spinning.

I’ve been looking online at spindles, but (as you may have realized by now) am a stingy person at heart, so am not ready to commit to a purchase. I’d like to know if I prefer top-whorl or bottom-whorl, how light/heavy I’m confortable with, etc. There’s a bag of fibre from my secret pal begging to be spun, and if I’m not going to use the caster-wheel spindle, or the soapstone spindle (which I’m sure wil be good for very fine spinning, in time), or buy something, then I guess it’s time to make more!

Here’s what I did:

I went to the local art supply store and picked up a 500g. bag of air-hardening craft clay, for the very low price of $3.58! I got mine in “terracotta” colour, just because. I still had dowelling left over from the first time, and if I need more they’re like $1.50, so no worries there. Otherwise, the rest of my supplies (kitchen scale, bamboo skewers, waxpaper, water, etc) I had already. I assembled them on my table…

…and began to sculpt!

Ok, yes, by “sculpt” I really mean “play with clay and make a mess on the table”, but you get the point. I tried to keep things as even as possible around the centre hole (not easy, but I tried), and otherwise just had fun trying to replicate whorls I’ve seen elsewhere.

Clay whorl in progress Clay spiral in progress

This is what I ended up with:
Clay whorls

I made a bead-type whorl with incised Celtic-style spirals, a convex whorl with a bit of weight in the centre, and a spiral “clay snake” whorl. I’m going to use the bead-type whorl in a bottom-weighted spindle, and try the other two as high-whorls. I’m a bit worried about how these will hold up when dropped (yeah, it’s still a “when” and not “if”), but there’s only one way to find out! I’ll let you know once the clay dries…

Some of you may remember I wrote the following regarding buying a pack of wooden toy wheels: (I’d guess defrayed cost of individual spindles would work out to under $10 each; I just don’t need 6 spindles!). I’d take it kindly if you would quitely ignore the fact that I will soon have something suspiciously close to six spindles, and plan on making and buying more…

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How-To: Two-at-once Toe-up Socks

I have become quite addicted to the “stats” page here on WordPress. Can’t get enough of it. Am thrilled when views in a day surpass 10, and wonder what I’m doing wrong when they’re less than 5. Am amused by which links people follow. And am intrigued by the searches people use to find me here.

According to my beloved stats page, many of you out there are looking for more information on how to knit two socks at the same time. And who could blame you?

Nothing is worst than the dreaded “Second Sock Syndrome” which afflicts so many knitters: the horror, the lethargy, the love-turned-to hate for a favoured sock pattern or yarn, all brought on by one mateless sock and a pile of empty dpns lying despondently before oneself!

The remedy for this cruel affliction? Two-at-once socks on the Magic Loop!

As it turns out I have just begun a new pair (oh, the joy of beginning a complete pair!) of Elfine’s Socks (pdf link), in beautiful Fleece Artist “Sea Wool”. Now unfortunately I am still camera-less* so I can’t show you what I’m doing. But I can point you in the right direction.

1) Find your sock pattern. I’d reccommend Elfine’s Socks (link above); WiseNeedle has a Simple Toe-up Pattern, as does this website; Elann’s “Sock it to me” Toe-up Chevron Socks was the first toe-up pattern I tried; and Widdershins looks very promising with a re-enforced gusset heel. Almost any pattern will do, though**: you just pass over the numbered-needle directions, and work the stitches divided over two needles, as even as possible.

2) Stitches over only two needles, you say? That’s right, with the Magic Loop method you’re only ever knitting with two points, and only ever on the “front” or the “back” (sole or instep, when it comes to socks). Check out here or here for instructions on how the Magic Loop works its magic.

3) Prepare your yarn! If you’ve got two balls of the same, great; if not, divide your large skien of sock yarn into two balls, one for each sock. Then stick your two balls of yarn into a ziplock bag (this keeps them clean, and cozy together!). I suppose you could just knit from both ends of a large ball, but I suspect that woud have you travelling swiftly down the road to tangles and frustration.

4) Cast-on for one sock with ball of yarn #1, and then cast on for the second sock using ball #2. Knitty has a “Figure 8” cast-on method tutorial which includes two-at-once socks (though it never seems that complicated when I’m doing it, so don’t get discouraged). Now I know some people hate the “figure 8”: that’s ok! Just remember the principals of Magic Loop when you’re casting on, and make sure that each sock has it’s frontside stitches on one half of your loop and the backside stitches on the other.

5) Knit your socks! As you make each round, you will be:
– knitting the first half of sock #1
– knitting the first half of sock #2
– turning you Magic Loop (adjusting the needles)
– knitting the second half of sock #2
– knitting the second half of sock #1

6) Yes, the heel is a bit of a sticky wicket. Follow the directions of your pattern carefully, and if you think it would be easier on your brain, you can always sub in a dpn. For short-row heels, you work the entire heel of sock #1, then the entire heel of sock #2.

7) Another advantage of toe-up socks is thatyou can try them on as you knit! This is especially nice for knitting the leg: you can go as high as you need to, or if you love taller socks you can pretty-much just knit until you’re out of yarn.

Enjoy! Knitting socks in this manner may seem like you’re making slower progress than more traditional methods, but remember: when you’re done, you’re done! No more Second Sock Syndrome.

If none of this made any sense to you whatsoever, try downloading this pdf: Two Socks on the Magic Loop.

.
*But we’re working on it. A usb cord has been aquired, and savings for non-crappy camera are underway.
**You can even use a cuff-down pattern! But then you don’t get to use a cool cast-on, like the “figure 8”.

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The Dropped Spindle

This evening will mark a week since the spinning obsession began. I’m still intrigued, fascinated, perplexed by the whole notion of spinning, and expect to continue to be so for a long time (or until something else comes up).

Some things I have learned in my first week:

– It is not called a drop spindle for nothing. “Dropped” spindle would be even more appropriate.

– Knitting is much easier to teach your self than spinning, if you rely upon internet resources. Knitters share. Spinners hoard their esoteric knowledge: perhaps one needs to find the appropriate coven (guild?) before one can be initiated into the Way of the Spindle.

– Concensus appears to dictate that while it is easier to learn how to spin on a drop spindle, this is only to draw you into spinning on a wheel. Anyone who wants to spin on a drop spindle alone must be some flavour of crazy. Even knitters appear to support this, with most of the handspun “yarn prOn” displayed on knitblogs being the product of a Louet, Journeywheel, Ashford*, or whatever.

– If you really do want to learn how to spin on a drop spindle, most of the how-to articles available online appear geared to the casual crafter, or even teen/kid crafts. Not that this is inherently bad, (I think encouraging anyone, especially young people, is great), but if you’re trying to figure out why you should do x or the how x is the best method, there’s not much out there….

– … except for Spindlicity, which seems very promising. I’ve already read through pretty-much the entire archive of articles, and have picked up several good tips. I have hope that Spindlicity will become the Knitty for drop-spindlers.

– I think I’m spinning “backwards”: in that, while I’m rotating the spindle clockwise for my singles, it’s my right hand that holds the unspun fibres. I’ve tried it the other way lots, and just end up with really terribly drafted fibres, really slubby singles, and/or a dropped spindle. Why, if I can teach myself to knit English and Continental, and am right-handed naturally, can I not spin the way everyone does in the pictures?

– There has got to be a better way of holding lots of fibre than the bolster on my couch. That way has me constantly pausing to turn around an pick up the next puff, and contains the constant threat of one of The Horribles coughing up a brightly-coloured merino hairball. What is this elusive “wrist distaff”, and how do I make one?

– I like the BFL better than the merino. Is merino harder to spin for everyone, or do I just suck?

Drafting from the fold is so far the most successful drafting method for me. I can get a nice, relatively-even, thinner single with this method (& the BFL).

– Plying is hard. The two-jars method just ended up with me cursing a lot and possibly ruining my already badly-spun first two spindle’s worth of singles. I think I’m going to try to find a way to make a cheap DIY “lazy kate”, and transfer spindlefuls onto little bobbins rather than winding my singles into balls.

Despite all my bitching, I’m really loving this spinning thing. I’ m finding it even more relaxing than knitting in some ways, and am going to stick with it. I have this crazy dream that someday I can scoff at all those wheel spinners as I display my beautiful, even, spindle-spun yarns…

`
*I can talk the talk, but I can’t afford to walk the walk!

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