Saturday, April 15, 2017

Life Lessons Learned From Knitting

I have learned so many life lessons from knitting.  Perhaps one day I will compile them all into an amazingly insightful post.  For now, here are some lessons I learned this week.

How Not to Turn a Small Problem into a Big Problem...

I purchased this kind of pricey but gorgeous self-striping yarn on etsy that I absolutely love.  When I started to knit with it, a small tangle started to develop.  I was so enthralled with watching the stripe sequence unfold, that I didn't want to stop to try to sort out the tangle.  Instead, I just kept pulling yarn from the center of the skein and tugging it through the center of the tangle, making the mess bigger and more tangley with every pull.  Eventually, I had yanked so much of the center out that it was now three large interconnected tangles and it was impossible to pull any more through the original knot.

I wish I had taken a photo at this point so you can see what it looked like.  But, I was too frustrated to document my mistake.  Here is the only photo I took - when I was nearly finished with the great untangling.

Back to the story: So, when I couldn't knit any further, I was finally forced to address my mistake.  I had a huge knot that had to be sorted out and I couldn't use any scissors to snip out the really crazy parts because that would interrupt the stripe sequence.  I also had my knitting attached to one end that I also couldn't cut off while I worked.  I simply had to start at the very end and start rolling a ball, un-twisting and un-tangling as I went.  No joke: I spent over 5 hours untangling my yarn.  I probably could have finished the entire first sock in that time.

The thing is, if I had just stopped as soon as the tangle appeared it probably would have taken me 10 minutes to sort it out.  I took a small problem and, through my unwillingness to address it right away, I created a massive disaster.

So, here is your basic life lesson, folks:

The best time to troubleshoot a problem is the moment you see it. The longer you carry on without fixing a problem, the more difficult it to going to be to fix later.  And, there will come a time when you can't ignore it any longer.  Problms won't go away just because you decide to ignore them.  More likely, they are probably just going to get bigger the longer they go unaddressed.

.... and a bonus lesson:

If you don't learn from your mistakes, you are doomed to repeat them.

I hate to admit this, but I have done this exact same thing before.  It was with a yarn that had an almost identical make up.  When it happened the first time, I didn't pay much attention to what had caused the mistake.  When it happened this second time, I put a lot more thought into why this happened and how I could prevent it from happening again.

I realized that this a loosely twisted yarn and it has a bit of a "halo" around it made up of fibers that didn't get caught up in the twist.  When you put it in a center pull ball, every time you pull the yarn out, it rubs against itself and those loose fibers pull off and form into little balls that attach two parts of the yarn together.  Thus, every time I forced more yarn through the center of all those little tangles, it caused more friction and just created more of these areas where yarn is getting fused together.

And here is a lesson that's actually about knitting:

When you are working with loosely twisted yarn, do not wind it into a center pull ball!!  If I had just pulled my yarn from the outside instead of the center, it wouldn't have created any friction that caused the little fiber balls that caused the tangles.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


So, I'm the girl who loves her job so much, that she knit a hat in the brand colors...  Actually, to make things worse, I knit it for my boss, but I don't think it will fit him, so I'm keeping it for myself.  :)

yarn details
Cascade 220 Superwash in Black
100% superwash wool
worsted weight
dye lot 1805001
100 grams/220 yds @ $8.40  (purchased 1/2017 online from WEBS)

Red Heart Soft in Turquoise and Tangerine

Cascade Sateen in Fuschia

project details
pattern: "Flying Ace Aviator Hat" by Cheryl Andrews (purchase on Ravelry for $5)
size: adult (large, I believe)
needles: size 6
yarn used: 160 yards black (73% of the ball); tiny amounts of the accent colors
duration: January 28 - February 8, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

FO: Meandering Rib Scarf

I knit this project to practice my continental knitting.  Same pattern as my wave rib scarf.  I think I did a little better with it this time around, still not so sure about continental though....

yarn details
Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Black
dye lot 75579
worsted weight
100% Superwash Merino Wool

machine wash gentle cold, dry flat
110 yards / 50 grams @ $4.69 each

project details
pattern:  Meandering Rib Scarf by Lion Brand Yarn available for free here
needles: size 6 (circs)
yarn used: 3.8 skeins (418 yards)
finished size: 82'' x 5.5'' (unblocked)
duration: November 1, 2015 - January 23, 2016

  • Knit continental style.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

FO: Blue Skies Head Hugger

Sadly, I lost my  beloved Head Hugger.  It was probably the most-used item I have ever knit and I was so sad to realize I lost it.  Luckily, it was fairly easy to replace... just knit a new one!

I switched up the colors a bit from last time:

yarn details
Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky in Aqua Inlet and Cranberry Swirl
85% wool, 15% mohair
bulky weight
handwash cold and dry flat
113 grams/125 yds @ $8.40 each (purchased 1/2017 online from WEBS)

embroidery floss to sew on flowers

project details
pattern: "Head Huggers" by M.K. Carroll, from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation, pg 59.
size: earwarmer, blocked out slightly longer to tie at back instead of chin
needles: size 8 DPNs and size 5 dpns (for leaves)
yarn used: 70 yards blue (0.56 skeins), 15 yards red (0.12 skeins)
duration: January 21 - 29, 2017

  • see my Ravelry project page for some notes on trying to make the decreases a little more attractive
  • Shhh... don't tell, but I actually embroidered the flowers to the wrong side of the headband!  You really can't tell, but I will always know that I made this error.  Now you will too.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

FO: Girl on Fire Socks

Found these socks while browsing Ravelry last Spring.  I think I may have been in the middle of watching the Hunger Games movies, so the name attracted me to stop and look at the pattern.  It took me a while to get it on the needles, but when I added this glittery red yarn to my stash, I knew it would be perfect.

Unfortunately, I was well into the leg of the sock when I realized that the cast on was a little snug on my calf (I'm the girl who has to buy those special wide boots...)  I decided to give these to my lovely friend Jill, who has normal sized calves.

Fun socks to knit and a fun gift for a friend.  Done, and done!

yarn details
Knit Picks Stroll Glimmer in Pomegranate
Fingering Weight
Dye Lot 74780
70% Merino, 25% Nylon, 5% Metallic
machine wash, lay flat to dry
$5.89 per 231 yard / 50 gram ball (minus a Black Friday discount) (purchased in November 2016)

project details
pattern: "Girl on Fire" by Cookie A; available to purchase for $6.50 on Ravelry
needles: size 1.5 (2.5mm) wood dpns
yarn used: 1.36 skeins (314 yards)
size knit: medium (CO 63 st)
finished size: 9'' from top of cuff to bottom of heel flap; 9'' from back of heel to tip of toe; 7.5'' in circumference around leg.
duration: December 24, 2016 - February 4, 2017

  • I didn't like how square the toe ended up by following the directions in the pattern... so I unpicked my graft (a very not-fun process!!!) and modified toe as follows: follow directions until 38 stitches remain, then work round 2 until 22 stitches remain.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What's in a needle?

I am knitting some cool socks with a fairly complicated traveling twisted stitch cable pattern and I just wanted to share my observation that in knitting, sometimes your needle choice is everything.

I started knitting these on bamboo dpns and it was so difficult to work the cable pattern that I nearly gave up on the third row!  I switched to some nice and pointy nickle plated needles and it made all the difference.  The tips are pointy enough to move those stitches and the needles are slippery enough to cross them without using a cable needle.

I hate using metal dpns to knit socks because I think it creates more laddering than the lighter wood dpns, so I went with an extra long circular needle here and I'm doing magic loop.  The only problem?  The cable on the needle is basically the same color as the yarn!

Now that I've got the appropriate needles for this project, it is so much fun to knit.  Complex, but kind of addicting!

p.s. the pattern is called Nebula, by Cookie A.

Monday, February 6, 2017

New Look for the Blog!

I am playing around with a new look for this blog.  I'm so in love with my adorable new header!!

Right now it looks a bit blah, but I'll be cute-ifying it in time.  I was just anxious to get it all started.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

FO: My 30th Socks!

Remember my very first pair of socks??  (Who knew these simple stockinette babies would lead to such a powerful sock knitting addiction??)

Well, after about 8 years, they finally developed a hole in the toe.  I added it to my pile of socks to fix, but I also decided that it would be kind of nostalgic to make another pair.  And, as it turns out, this was my 30th pair of socks.  Neat, huh?

What I love about these socks is that they are made out of worsted weight yarn, so they are super warm.  The original pair was knit out of Wool Ease, but I did these out of a 100% wool yarn, so they are even more crazy warm than their predecessor.  Definitely necessary in New England!

Knitted Socks in Worsted Weight Yarn -- Starter Stockinette

Also love that these are a super quick knit.  I definitely recommend this pattern to anyone who wants to get started knitting socks - it's in a great book called Knit Socks (that's an affiliate link).  It contains everything you need to learn how to knit socks.  After you cut your teeth on this pair, I like the Classsy Slip Up socks for your first pair made with fingering weight yarn.  But I digress....

yarn details
Cascade 220 Superwash in Monmarte
Worsted Weight
Dye Lot 10107
100% Wool
machine wash, lay flat to dry
$5.99 per 220 yard / 100 gram skein (purchased in March 2014)

Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Natural Heather
Worsted Weight
80% Acrylic, 20% Wool
machine wash, lay flat to dry
197 yard / 85 gram ball (purchased in 2006)

project details
pattern: "Starter Stockinette" by Betsy Lee McCarthy; available to purchase for $5 on Ravelry
needles: size 3 wood dpns
yarn used: 0.94 skeins (207 yards) of MC; 0.15 skeins (30 yards) CC
size knit: small
gauge: 13 st & 16.6 rows over 2'' in stockinette
finished size: top of cuff to end of bottom of heel flap: 9.5''; back of heel to tip of toe: 10''
duration: Nov 23 - Dec 24, 2016

Saturday, February 4, 2017

14 Things You Need To Get Started Knitting Socks

I first became addicted to sock knitting about 10 years ago.  At first it seemed kind of scary, but after you overcome the anxiety associated with casting on for your first pair, you will find that knitting socks is such a joyful experience and a gorgeous and comfy pair of socks is the best hand knit out there, in my opinion!

Here are the tools that I find invaluable in my sock knitting.  You can buy them all at once, or gradually build your collection as you grow to love knitting socks!

FYI: the links to Craftsy and Amazon below are affiliate links.  That means I get a little extra yarn money!

1. Emergency Fix Keychain

The little end on this double-sided mini crochet hook is perfect for picking up those teeny tiny dropped stitches in your sock.  Dropping stitches sucks, but it happens. (You can detach the keychain part using a pair of pliers if it annoys you).

2. Crayola Blunt Tip Scissors

The best thing about sock knitting is that it is so portable! You'll want these blunt tipped scissors in your knitting bag so you never stab yourself when you are reaching in there. Bonus: the TSA lets you fly with this babies!

3.  Digital Scale (the smaller the better!)

Why a scale you ask? Because sock yarn usually comes in one big 400+ yard ball, you need to make sure you use no more than half of it in your first sock or you will run out on the second sock = no fun! With the scale, you can weight the yarn ball every now and then while you are working on that first sock to keep an eye on it and make sure you never go below the halfway point. This is particularly useful if you are knitting toe-up socks because you can keep going on the cuff to make it as long as possible - if that's your style.

4. Knit Socks!: 17 Classic Patterns for Cozy Feet

This is the book I used to learn how to knit socks. The Starter Stockinette sock is written for knitting a sock out of worsted weight yarn, which is a good place to start if you have (a) never knit a sock before and (b) never knit with fingering weight yarn before. A worsted weight sock is less of a time commitment than a fingering weight sock and they are super cozy! After you master the Starter Stockinette, I love the Classy Slip Up Socks for your first "fancy" pair of socks.

5. Umbrella Yarn Swift and Yarn Ball Winder

I'm a sucker for buying my sock yarn online, but sock yarn usually comes in hanks and not balls. You will need a swift and ball winder. No one wants to wind a 400+ yard skein by hand.

6. Bamboo Double Pointed Needles, Size 2

I love knitting socks on wooden dpns. They are light so they don't create as many ladders and they aren't as slippery as other materials so your stitches are less likely to slide off the needles. Size 2 is the size I use most often for socks. I highly recommend buying more than one set because you will inevitably lose one and it's nice to have a spare!

7. Pretty Snag Free Stitch Markers

You'll want small snag-free stitch markers handy in case your pattern calls for them. I have these ones and they are well-made. Love buying stitch markers on etsy -- there are so many cute ones! I have quite a large collection.

8. Heart Locking Stitch Markers

You'll need a locking stitch marker to mark where the beginning of your round is. Why not get a super cute one??

9. Project Bag

You'll want a super cute bag to keep your WIP in, right? I'm a big fan of these wedge style bags with the zippered top and a handle. They are available from lots of sellers on etsy.

10. Darning Egg

If you get a hole in your socks, you should try darning them. It's not an easy task, but worth it to save the socks you worked so hard on. There are lots of tutorials on the internet about how to darn socks. Many will suggest using a lightbulb as your darning surface, but I think that is a crazy idea. Just buy a wooden darning egg and don't risk it!

11.  Craftsy Class: Learn To Knit Original Cuff-Down Socks

I'm addicted to using Craftsy for picking up new knitting skills. Once you have a few pairs of socks under your belt, you will love this class by sock-knitter-extraordinaire Donna Druchunas. She covers different methods for making heels and toes and you can design your own custom-fit socks using any stitch pattern you like. Fun! (There is a toe-up version of this class as well, if that's your thing.)

Knit Original Cuff-Down Socks

12. View Sizer

Smart knitters check their gauge. Just do it.

13.  Embroidery/Tapestry Large Gold Eye Needles

This is my needle of choice for finishing my socks. It has a sharp point so if you use it for kitchener stitch be careful not to split the yarn as you graft. I like the sharp point precisely because it *does* split the yarn when I am weaving in my ends. Makes them much more secure.

AND...  don't forget the yarn!

14. Stroll Tonal Sock Yarn

This is my absolute favorite sock yarn! It is ever so slightly variegated so it's interesting to knit with, but it will never pool or distract from your stitch pattern. When shopping for sock yarn, be sure to pick one that is made from superwash wool and I highly recommend getting one with a little nylon mixed in. This makes the yarn more heavy-duty and your socks are going to last a lot longer. (Repairing holes on the heels/soles of your socks is possible, but not at all fun!)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

FO: Silverplait Socks

These socks were much more simple to knit than they look!  I had a lot of fun with them!  I did these without a cable needle -- I didn't need one for the two side cables and I positioned the center cable at the join of my dpns so I could use the spare dpn as if it were the cable needle when I reached the join in that area.  (Hard to explain this concept, but it's easy if you have it in your hands!)

I'm not in love with this yarn, I have to say.  It's just not as soft as I'd like it to be.  Definitely not scratchy, but I guess I would use to describe it is "stiff".  That said, I got some awesome Beyond Soft fabric softener at Knit Picks and it worked like a dream in the blocking stage to soften up the yarn.  They are still not as soft as creations out of my beloved Stroll, but definitely much better than nothing!  Anyway, so the yarn isn't horrible, but I would probably not buy it again....  but it's not bad for $3.00 a skein.

This picture is a little more true to the color of the socks...  they are a very pretty blue!

yarn details
Cloudborn Fibers Highland Superwash Sock Twist in Dolphin Blue
Fingering Weight
Dye Lot 19-0
80% Wool, 20% Nylon
machine wash, lay flat to dry
$3.00 per 178 yard / 50 gram skein (purchased in August 2016)

project details
pattern: "Silverplait" by Ariel Altaras; available to purchase for $5 on Ravelry
needles: size 1.5 (2.5mm) wood dpns
yarn used: 1.9 skeins (338 yards)
size knit: medium (CO 70st)
finished size: top of cuff to end of bottom of heel flap: 8.5''
duration: October 6 - Dec 24, 2016


  • If you want to know how to cable without a needle, I learned how in Patty Lyons's Craftsy class -- Explorations in Cables (affiliate link)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things...

I'm super excited about the scarf I'm knitting -- it's called "My Favourite Things" by Jill McGee.  It's more of a "recipe" than a pattern.  The instructions to get you started are a free Ravelry download, so I recommend checking it out.

I am stashbusting for this project, which means it's mostly coming from my leftovers of acrylic from various amigurumis or whatnot.  (All gathered together in what I call my "bag of chaos.")  I'm having tons of fun playing with different color combinations and picking out cool motifs to make the scarf.  I just pick color schemes and motifs that remind me of my favorite things.  Like this one, where I'm knitting the Federation symbol while watching TNG...

I'm also loving the pink cat motif (although I used some extra crappy yarn for that piece and it looks pretty bad.  Really should have frogged it and started over with better yarn, but that ship has sailed, so I'm gonna live with it...)

I'm loving playing with color and getting to use everything I learned in my color theory class on Craftsy [affiliate link].  BTW, I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I'm enrolled in 108 classes, but happy to report that this color class is absolutely my very favorite!

OK, back to knitting!  Pepper out.